The Logic of a Rose

my first serious crush was lindsay jones. (maybe she will google this!) we were in sixth grade together. i was still a boy then and was even a little girlie. besides fantasizing about holding hands and getting married someday, i picked flowers for fun. i played with my little ponies. i enjoyed the love triangle in robotech as much as the transforming fighter planes. not so macho. when i began to notice lindsay, i wanted her to notice me. the thought of approaching her was mortifying. so, i tried to be around her. i tried to make it clear that, if she asked me to go to howard johnson's with her, i would definitely say yes. i told her that she looked nice when she wore her hair in a pony tail. i was crushed when she wore it down the next day.

my mom was sympathetic. she encouraged me to be brave, to be confident, to ask lindsay out. "she likes sundaes," my mom told me. i still don't know how she knew that. "if you invite her for ice cream, i will pay for it." i took the money, walked to lindsay's house, chickened out on the doorstep, and ate two whole sundaes all by myself. when i was that young, i had no idea what to expect from love. i had no preconception of what was expected from me as a boy versus what might have been expected of me if i was a girl. while crying -metaphorically!- into my ice cream, i felt that it was really unfair that i had to do all the work. but i got the hint.

for her birthday, i saved up a lot of money (thirty dollars!) and bought lindsay a heart shaped ring with her initial on it. "does that mean you're married?" one of her friends asked. i shrugged. lindsay organized a game of spin the bottle and ended it as soon as she kissed me on the cheek. that gave me some confidence.

i called her when i got home that night. i told her that i liked her. she sounded really happy when she said "i like you too." i hadn't said enough. "i don't like you like you though." i was so happy to get that off my chest! i had no idea why she sounded sad. she ignored me at school. it took years -literally- for me to figure out what had happened. in my mental landscape, it is a legend of miscommunication. i tried to tell her that i liked her more than liking her. she heard the exact opposite.

it took weeks to earn back lindsay's affection. on a bus to disney world, i worked up the courage to serenade her in front of my entire class. we built this city on rock and roll. she held my hand while we toured the epcot center. back at school though, i poked her stomach and said that she was chubby. i like little bellies but lindsay drew devil horns on my year book picture.

these paintings were commissioned by Cicada Magazine to illustrate The Logic of a Rose, another beautiful story by Billy Lombardo. in this sequel to Mrs. Higgins' Heart and The Smell of Fire, the Bellapinis move in to a new appartment and Peter Bellapini develops a crush on his neighbor, Rosalie.

the story brought tears to my eyes. i doubt that i'll find the right words for this, but i'll try. there's a transformation that takes place as children grow up. part of it has to do with getting bigger and getting smarter and becoming one's self. another part has to do with socialization. with learning what to do and what to say and how to act. with becoming a Man or becoming a Lady. with becoming good or bad. with fulfilling or disappointing expectations. a lot of socialization is important. it helps us to communicate. it helps us stay healthy and fed. it keeps us out of jail.

some aspects of socialization are so arbitrary though. what is masculine? (men kiss hello in italy for example.) what is beautiful? (i take some comfort in the fact that there is a porno site for just about every body shape, size, color, and furriness.) what is kind? (we are here for you no matter what or we will leave you if you take another drink?) would the world be a better place if we could disregard some of these questions?

dar williams wrote a song that speaks to this conundrum:

I won't forget when Peter Pan came to my house, took my hand. / I said I was a boy. I'm glad he didn't check. / I learned to fly. I learned to fight. I lived a whole life in one night. / We saved each other's lives out on the pirate's deck. / And I remember that night when, while leaving a late night with some friends, / I heard somebody tell me that it's not safe, someone should help me, / I need to find a nice man to walk me home. / When I was a boy, I scared the pants off of my mom, / I climbed what I could climb upon / And I don't know how I survived. I guess I knew the tricks that all the boys knew. / And you can walk me home, but I was a boy, too. / I was a kid that you would like, just a small boy on her bike / Riding topless, yeah I never cared who saw.

And like the woods where I would creep, it's a secret I can keep / Except when I'm tired, except when I'm being caught off guard. / I've had a lonesome awful day, the conversation finds it's way / To catching fireflies out in the backyard / And I tell the man I'm with about the other life I lived / And I say now you're top gun, I have lost and you have won / And he says "Oh no, oh, no, can't you see / When I was a girl, my mom and I, we always talked / And I picked flowers everywhere that I walked / And I could always cry, now even when I'm alone I seldom do / And I have lost some kindness, / But I was a girl too. / And you were just like me, and I was just like you."

© 2005 rama hughes