An antidote to the pre–Valentine's Day malaise

We get it, Valentine's Day can be soul-crushingly awful. But, old romantics that we are, here's a touchingly sweet reader's missed connection, illustrated by Sophie Blackall.

Valentine's Day is potentially the most dispiriting of the Hallmark holidays, whether you're single and feeling alone, or struggling to meet a partner's high expectations of traditional romance. Tapping into this feeling are a bevy of anti–Valentine's Day events, like the sharing of stories at It's Like My Heart Has Sciatica: Smith Mag's Annual Love & Heartbreak Story Show, or the inspired reimagining of February 14 as Cher Day at Reverend Jen's Anti-Slam Cher Day Valentine Extravaganza.

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But so you aren't crushed under the weight of despair, we dug out a genuinely touching piece to replenish your wellspring of hope. To coincide with Sophie Blackall’s sweetly whimsical 2011 book of illustrated Craigslist ads titled Missed Connections: Love, Lost & Found, we asked for your stories of blown opportunities and romantic yearning. Reader Cat Hughes's tale broke through our hearts’ stony exteriors to reveal the fragile cores beneath, and it's still getting to us—we're on the verge of weeping openly at our desks as we write this. The story is reproduced below, along with Blackall's full-length illustration. By a happy coincidence, Blackall also appears at the Missed Connections Valentine’s Day Party at Grand Central's Vanderbilt Hall on February 14.

"You were wearing an average office suit with an admirably messy haircut. I was the girl with brown curly hair and a blouse with horses on it. We did that awkward back-and-forth shuffle of two strangers trying to pass each other on the street; then you grabbed me and gently swirled me in a mini waltz in the middle of the lunchtime shoppers and angry passersby. I would understand that moment if it happened now—two people sharing a delicate second in a day that hadn’t gone to plan. But no, when it happened, I was in my awkward early-twenties, so I just frowned, trudged away and hoped no one had noticed. Thanks for making my day."