On Valentine's day Mark gave me a doughnut a pink-frosted French cruller with a red candy heart in the hole from the Winchell's at California and Lake. He'd gone out and bought it before I woke up. It came in a shiny white cardboard box with a red heart on it.

Happy Valentine's Day. A valentine doughnut.

When we first met, each night we'd hunker down in the yellow booths at Winchell's, and instead of pondering the mysteries of the human heart, we'd eye the Pasadena cops who'd sit in the next booth. The lady cop would get a maple bar, her partner, a plain glazed donut. Mark would get a chocolate old-fashioned. We'd stare at the cops until they looked our way. Then we'd look at each other.

We didn't like cops. It was something we had in common.

Posters of doughnuts the size of inner tubes loomed over us on the walls, surreal under the fluorescent lights. Giant cake doughnuts with pastel sprinkles. Giant jelly doughnuts leaking red goo. Giant chocolate doughnuts with white icing. The cops' faces shone white like the white icing. Our faces were pasty-white too.

We spent hours there on neutral ground.

The Valentine's Day doughnut box is on our hearth in Los Altos. The doughnut looks none the worse for wear after all these years, although I am afraid to turn it over.


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