Love is: not having to hide from the police

It is the scarlet day again: of red roses by the dozen and heart-shaped chocolates in red ribbon-laced boxes.

It is the scarlet day again: of red roses by the dozen and heart-shaped chocolates in red ribbon-laced boxes.

And of course, Valentine's Day means a happy sojourn to the bank for many a retailer.

Today is when lovers exchange gifts and murmur amorously into each other's ears. Women will certainly coo affectionately when their beaus send them perfumed bouquets at work by courier express.

"To my one and only Valentine", the accompanying card will surely say. Her smile, like her bright red outfit, is set to radiate.

"Love is in the air", the ditty made timeless by crooner Tom Jones, like an earworm, is certain to get stuck in many a lover's mind.

Significantly though, ponder this piece of information gleaned from Wikipedia, the free online encyclopaedia.

"The US Greeting Card Association estimates that approximately one billion Valentines are sent each year worldwide, making the day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year behind Christmas."

The association estimates that women buy approximately 85 percent of the cards on Valentine's Day.

But, pause and consider this statement by Thinavhuyo Mulovhedzi, an informal trader - hawker - opposite Jabulani Mall in Soweto this week.

"The traffic officers came and took my stock, leaving me without anything to sell. They did not ask whether I had a trading permit or not, but took my stock and gave me a written notice demanding I pay a R500 penalty."

We know and see women like Mulovhedzi each day as, come rain, come shine, they toil away trying to eke out a living on the streets in the townships.

Some, like her, peddle fruit and vegetables on pavements next to skyscrapers in Johannesburg's CBD and elsewhere across the country.

Also, like Mulovhedzi, a mother of two, they may have children to feed, clothe and educate.

These women might be married or have partners, which means they too are lovers.

But question is: as they lean against the city's buildings selling their wares, are these women aware of the romance in the air around them?

Is MaMoloi or MaDlamini, the hawker in the CBD, expecting a box of chocolates from her partner when, after a tiring day, she goes home to a shack at a squatter camp called Zonk'izizwe? Probably not.

It is possible that her man has never heard of Valentine's Day or, if so, has more important issues on his mind.

Among these could be finding permanent employment instead of the "piece jobs" that often are too far apart.

Obviously, being gainfully employed may guarantee a proper roof in a better neighbourhood.

Yes, the florists and greeting card shops will be raking in the rands today.

Suitors will try to romance those their eyes behold: "Be my Valentine", they will say through painstakingly well-versed prose or poetry.

Indeed, it is the day when Cupid's arrow is expected to pierce many a heart.

Spare a thought for Mulovhedzi, the street vendor of Soweto, as she prays that the police do not come back today.

That would be her best Valentine's Day gift.