Eight years ago, I wrote a Valentine"s Day column I still consider among my best work. Not because it"s particularly well-written, but because it still hits me with the clarity of truth. I"ve pretty much stopped writing about my personal life, after finding out the hard way that people sometimes pay attention to what I say. But occasionally I go back and reread this column, just to remind myself about the memories it contains. It was always Harrison Ullmann"s favorite piece of mine, perhaps because he saw that I bled every word. Harry couldn"t stand phonies. He also could tell when someone was being sincere. I wish I could say the passing years have filled me with wisdom when it comes to matters of the heart. But still I carry on and hope for the best, despite the inevitable pitfalls. This has been a turbulent and tumultuous 12 months for me in my personal life. But even in the darkest, most bleak moments, I try to maintain hope, because sometimes that"s all you have. "Forgiveness is easy" The other night, I asked a friend the question that was playing tricks on my mind: Is there anything you consider unforgivable? She e-mailed me back: you havent heard half my life nothing unforgiveable trust me theres one person who tried to rape me once hes the only person i would never forgive two other rape attempts lotta talking about me behind my back boyfriend theft coming to my house with your boys to jump my brother all forgiven dont ask why forgiveness is easy The choir director The choir that was performing came from a church in a city where Martin Luther King had once led a large march in the early 1960s. The choir"s leader was wearing a white T-shirt with a picture of the march and the words "Freedom Ain"t Free" placed, headline-style, above a photo of Dr. King at the rally. In time with the music, at one with it, the choir director was giving the performance of her life. Not a note, not a beat passed unnoticed by her flailing arms. Her smiles and grimaces seemed to coax the performance from the choir. She was youngish, the choir director, 27 or 28, and slim, with the front of the large T-shirt pulled into her slacks. Further examination showed a sparkling ring - wedding? engagement? - on her left hand. In-between songs, she would approach the mike and talk, with a look that only occurs on the faces of true believers. And only those who have found love in God sound the way she sounded when she talked about Jesus. "I would urge everyone here on this historic occasion to find love for Christ in your hearts today," she said. "Christ can bring you peace. Christ will bring you love. Your life will fall into place and you will achieve things on a scale you never imagined before." She sounded so sincere, so emotional, so real that I fell in love with her right away. As she stretched her arms to either side, the sides of her T-shirt billowed open to the rush of air and on one or two occasions I could crane my neck and look through the sleeves of her shirt to see the curve of her figure, visible for a second and then passing away, just as the music washed over the crowd and made a joyful noise unto the Lord and Creator of All. Scene from a breakup Be careful of what you wish for. During the middle of an argument between myself and a girl, I got a call from The Girl. "I want to thank you. You just interrupted an argument," I said. "So you owe me, huh," she said. "Yes I do," I said. "I had a question for you but I think you"ve already answered it. You said we were getting together on Wednesday, didn"t you?" "Uh, you"re probably about to have another argument because ..." She trailed off. "Because I don"t want to see you tonight. I don"t want to see you anymore." "I"m not going to argue with you," I said. "I respect you too much for that. Besides, you"re 52 and 3 with me in the argument department, anyway." "I"ve done a lot of thinking about it and I"ve decided that it"s just something that I don"t want to do," she said. "I don"t want to have this kind of relationship - these kinds of relationships - this relationship anymore." But then she said she would see me one last time, as long as it was that night. When I got there ... She opened the door after a long delay and after only a few seconds led me into the bedroom. She went into the bathroom, came out and stood there, like a doll, and I hugged her; she put her arms around me as if doing so dutifully, like an outdated and vaguely unpleasant social custom. I stood there, holding her for what seemed like a long time and the most amazing thing was how completely passive both of us were. Not bad feelings; no feelings. Void, vacant and blank. It wasn"t quite like looking into an abyss; it was more like staring at the sea or staring at the sand. Do you want to make love? I asked. "This is your night," she said. The same impassive voice. As I stood there looking at her, I realized that no matter what I did or said right then, my life had been changed already and would change more. That"s what I thought about later as I walked to my car. The February wind that whistled against my jacket was as familiar a presence to me as is the company provided by the ghosts of old friendships that have come and gone.