a lone earring
War, you say. Boys must always play at killing each other. Know that we were all Air Force brats, living on Clark Air Force Base, and each and everyone one of us thought our fathers were Commandos or Luke Skywalkers. Just about every boy at some age wants to emulate his father or what he thinks his father is, that is, until he's truly disappointed by him for the first time.
We used to have this wide open field connecting the backyards of the houses on Simon St. (it was an open community of sorts, no fences to mark off separate yards) and the houses on the next (I forget the name, it was 12 years ago) where the dreaded diving birds would pirch on the tops of houses. We used to practice dodging "bullets" (as we called them) and would dash across the field like the gates of hell opened behind us to devour us. I only got shot once. Right on the crown of my head. Mum and Dad thought I got beat up when I came home crying that day.
After playing outside and getting dirty and doing young boy things, Cita would run a bath for me (Odd, I only ever take showers now). Afterwards I would be forced to take a nap. Our "hut" in the Philippines was pretty large. Drawing from the natural (and seemingly endless) resources, the entire house had wood floors, all the furniture was handcarved or wicker and my favourite thing of all were the sea shells with our names engraved in them from Subic Bay. I shared a room with my little sister and our room was right next to our parents' room. To get to Cita's room you had to walk down the hall, pass up the bathroom and the junk closet, take a right into and through the kitchen and past the washing machine and dryer. It was in Cita's room where I took my naps. Or was supposed to anyway.
One day while faking a nap, I sat up on the bed to look out the screen windows. The windows in Cita's room faced the big field I was talking about earlier. Something sad to me about seeing such a big field without any other kids flying kites, or throwing frisbees, or playing catch, or swinging or riding down the slide or see sawing -- goddamned nap times. Like kids don't have limitless energy.
Cita was somewhere else in the house cleaning so I hopped out of bed and began to look through her things on the night stand. Cita was from Cebu, which is a city in middle section of islands (Visayas) and was Catholic, so she had a lot of pictures of her family back home and pearly white crucifix necklaces and such strung about. Clark Air Force Base, and therefore Simon St. were in Angeles City which is in Luzon, the north most Island of the Philippine Islands.
Amongst Cita's things I found a lone earring, missing it's pair and also the backing that clipped it to her ear. The earring was a creamy silver, as if it had gold paint on it once, but had since rubbed or worn off. The face of the earring was a rose and the stem was slightly crooked from being bent, which I suppose turned out that way because someone stepped on it.
It was pretty.
If only I had someone to give it to I thought. I stuffed it in my pocket and jumped back into bed because I heard Cita coming down the way.
The bus stop to school was down the street from my house and directly across from Brandon's house. I'd walk down down the steps on my porch and past the green Peugot parked in front of our hut, my Knight Rider lunchbox in my back pack, wearing my Pirates jersey and these cherry red basketball jersey shorts (clashin' like it ain't no thang). Had the socks up to my knees with the two red stripes too. While waiting for the bus we'd usually pick guavas off the tree in Brandon's yard and take one bite from them and throw them away. Typical American thing to do--be wasteful little bastards. Brandon's house girl had 11 fingers (an extra pinky), no bullshit.
Down the street about 6 blocks (not going toward Marcus and Jerome and Ryan's houses) there was this girl I used to think was pretty. Her name was Francis. Perfect I thought, for obvious reasons. She had shoulder length brown hair and a few brown freckles on her cheeks. Her eyes were a hazel if I remember correctly. She was one year older than me, and had been in Ms. Nicolay's class when she was in 2nd grade. (I always thought Ms. Nicolay hated me, but that's another story.)
Francis sat at the front of the bus on the right-hand side (when facing the emergency exit in the back) with her bookbag in her lap and her sentence note book on top every day without fail. I remember all that weekend I had watched Disney cartoons all day, with Sleeping Beauty being my favourite. The ending was always great--you know, how her dress changed from pink to blue, blue to pink and them dancing on the clouds and all. Why did the prince in every Disney fairy tale have to be white I used to wonder.
That day I knew when I got on the bus I was going to give Francis the bent, faded rose earring and tell her how pretty I thought she was. I'd probably get down one one knee and hand it to her like it was some 30 count bouquet of tulips or something. She'd smile. We'd kiss. We'd hold hands at school. And the guys would diss me out of jealousy because I was in love with a girl in 3rd grade and she was in love with me and not them. I was willing to risk that. Afterall, who likes getting shot in the field with them anyway?
I don't remember exactly what happened -- the moment was lost in adrenaline and nervousness and shame -- but I walked up the steps with my head lowered and the rose clenched at the center of my balled first. I didn't even say hello to the bus driver like I usually did. I got on the bus with my eyes looking at my velcro shoes smartly criss-crossed (rather than 'laced' straight across) and my bus pass hanging loosely around my neck. I went over my plan to stop at Francis' seat and get on my knees and hand her the rose, and she'd take it and smile, and give me a peck on the cheek, and she'd pull her long brown hair to the left side of her neck and put the earring in and it'd be magical.
Reality hit me. I was a 2nd grader. She was not. She was nice and all, but I'm still some runt from Simon Street.
I tossed the rose in her lap midstride and lowly said 'Here...' keeping my head down. That walk to my seat seemed to take forever and a day. I sat down and tried to ostrich my head into the back of the forest green vinyl seat in front of me, afraid to look up. I could hear the girls next to her and across from her giggling.
I finally did look up and Francis turned around and smiled at me. Dimples and all. I thought about smiling back but I had buck teeth (they hadn't grown in all the way yet). I smiled, and it felt good, even if it was all cheeks.
Wednesday, February 28, 2001
copyright 1999-2008 to the authors. we have a massive crush on you.