Tuesday, June 2, 2009

rose is a rose is a rose is a rose

    When I was in high school, I was in love constantly. With different
girls, of course, but still constantly in love. It was mostly one-sided
love, but that was okay. It wasn't important that the girl love me back,
or even like me, or even know me, for that matter. All that mattered was
that I had a chance to look at her, listen to her voice, and perhaps,
every second Tuesday, exchange a few words with her. If I could do that I
was happy.
It was rare, therefore, that I actually got up the nerve to ask one of
these girls out. So rare that my body wasn't used to it. I mean, I used to
have difficulty coordinating myself enough to open a jar of mustard. To
ask a girl to the movies, I had to get my arms, legs, eyes, hands, brain
and tongue to work together for a period of up to 5 minutes. That just
wasn't possible. And what if she said yes? Oh, Jesus, I would have to have
everything working together for a whole evening! Forget it! That sort of
work just wasn't for me.
So I wallowed. By sophomore year things weren't too good, and weren't
too bad. I was in love with a girl in my European History class, who was
also in my European Literature class, in my Chemistry class, and who
sometimes had the same lunch period as I. Her name was Rosanna, she was a
cheerleader, she was absolutely beautiful, amazingly brilliant, and she
had this weird laugh that for some strange reason used to get me excited.
Of course, in my unofficial position as class clown, I had lots of
opportunities to make her laugh, and thus get myself excited.
She knew my name, she liked me (but just as a friend, from what I had
heard), and we even managed to talk for extended periods going to and from
our common classes. Something was strange, though. I was beginning to find
myself growing bolder. So bold that I was afraid that I was going to do
something stupid like actually ask her out before I could stop myself. And
we know what a slip like that could lead to; walking into walls, drooling,
falling over, and all the other actions of an uncontrolled body. I had to
avoid it if I could.
So things grew slowly worse. I found myself staring at her constantly
in European History class, where she sat against the wall, in front of a
large map of Europe, with her head just covering Sicily. I would trample
students and teachers alike in an attempt to get next to her on the lunch
line. I would place my Bunsen burner next to hers in Chem Lab, praying
silently that this time I would not burn the skin off my hand as I had
done last time. I was, in reality, losing my mind, because every time I
would get near her, a small voice in my brain would say "Go ahead, ask
Finally something snapped in my brain. I decided to leave a rose on
her doorstep, a beautiful red rose, the best I could find. With a card, of
course. A card that said... what? What could I write to her that wouldn't
either be laughed at or ignored? "I love you?" No, that might scare her
away. It certainly scared the hell out of me. "How are you?" No, dammit,
this is supposed to be a token of love, not a get well visit. How about
just signing my name? No; she'll probably take that to mean that I am a
complete imbecile who can't think of something clever to write
With the issue of what to write still unresolved, I formulated my
plan. The first problem I ran into was that I needed a rose. I strolled
down to the florist to get one. It was a beautiful autumn night, slightly
chilly, with a fat orange full moon lighting up the sky like a
jack-o-lantern. A perfect night, I thought, for what I am about to do.
Part of me answered, "Yeah, a perfect night for making a fool of
yourself." I pulled my baseball jacket closer to fight the chill that sped
through my body.
At the florist, I picked put the biggest, reddest, prettiest American
Beauty rose I could find. I asked the woman behind the counter to wrap it
up with a lot of baby's breath, and while she did that, I went to fill out
the card.
My mind raced. I had still not decided what to write to her. Some
poetry, perhaps? But what? A few verses flashed through my head, but
nothing that I wanted. A line from a song? A declaration of love? What?!?
I finally just left it blank and shoved the card into the miniature
envelope; she'll know who sent it, I thought, now the next move is hers.
I paid for the flower and zipped up my jacket; it was really getting
quite cold. I headed down her street, as I had done every night for the
previous six days, gathering information on the layout of the neighbor-
hood, seeing who was out, who was in, and how well lit her house was. But
as I got to the corner, getting ready to walk down that final block, I
hesitated. Why let her see me coming, I thought to myself. If I walk
around the block, and approach her house from the other direction, then
(due to the topography of the neighborhood), she won't be able to see me
approach until I am at her house (assuming she is looking out her window,
that is). Perfect, I thought. I headed around the block.
The streets in the suburb in which we lived are not arranged in
regular grids. Instead, the streets followed older village trails, stream
beds, raccoon runs, and other, more irregular patterns. As such, the shape
of her block was more rhomboid than rectangular, a little like a triangle
with the top point cut off. Her house was near the upper right hand corner
of the rhomboid. At about this time, I was nearing the upper left hand
corner of the rhomboid. I stopped to gather my courage. All I had to do
was turn the corner, walk a few feet, turn the other corner, and I would
be at her house. When I got to her house, (the most dangerous part of the
mission), I would have to open her front gate, creep up her walk, climb up
the stairs to her front door, drop the flower, ring the bell, jump off the
porch and hide in the bushes until she went in. All this from a guy who
once tied his necktie into his shoelaces. I started humming the James Bond
theme and moved on.
I picked up the flower, took one step, and heard someone yell out
"Patrick!". I nearly wet myself. A thousand thoughts were racing through
my head. Who knew I was here? Would I be forced, like James Bond, to kill
them if they interfered with my mission? How do I get myself into these
Realizing that the most important thing was not to get caught with any
incriminating evidence, I tossed the flower over the nearest clump of
bushes and turned around, just as the voice said "Patrick!" again.
It was Kathy, a friend of mine from school. I liked Kathy, and usually
chatted with her at lunchtime or between classes, but now I wanted to blow
her off the face of the earth. She was close friends with Rosanna, and
they would easily tie my presence in the neighborhood with the appearance
of the rose on Rosanna's doorstep. I realized, however that that was what
I wanted. I wanted there to be no doubt in Rosanna's mind as to the
identity of the person who gave her the rose. I turned and greeted Kathy
with a smile.
One and one half hours later, I was no longer smiling. Kathy had
decided to tell me the story of her love life in greatest detail, and I
couldn't get her to stop. I looked at my watch, blew on my fingers, paced
up and down, I did everything to make it clear that I wanted her to go
home. But she was oblivious to all my contortions. She wanted to talk. I
spent the next half-hour thinking up ways ways to shut her up, but to no
avail. She kept right on jabbering.
Finally, two hours after she spotted me, she let me go, saying "Oh,
well, I might as well let you go. By the way, what are you doing here,
anyway?" I froze. She knew I lived over a mile away, but I had to use any
excuse to get rid of her.
"Oh," I said, looking her straight in the eye, "I just went out for a
She seemed to buy it.
I walked her to her door, and then went back to the place where I
crouched two hours before. I had to search for the rose. I knew that I had
thrown it over some hedges, but exactly which hedges I had long since
forgotten. I peered into one yard after another, getting my face scratched
from all the thorns, stickers, prickers, and twigs, until, there, in the
center of Mr. and Mrs. Abbotello's lawn, sat the rose, shining in the pale
moonlight. I didn't want to go up their driveway to get the rose, so I
took a few steps back, got a running start, vaulted over the hedges, and
landed on the face of their German shepherd, Ginger.
Ginger, I'm certain, wasn't sure what had hit her. It was as if the
sky had opened and a person dropped out. She yelped and jumped away,
landing by chance right on top of the rose. I rolled over and looked at
her. She looked at me, then started growling, as her surprise and pain
turned to anger. I wasn't sure what to do now. Like a dream, I heard my
cousin's voice instructing me on the proper defense against a dog. "If you
ever get attacked by a dog," he once said, years ago, "rub his dick and
he'll leave you alone!" The idea behind that, I guess, was that if you did
something nice to the dog, he wouldn't regard you as a threat. But there,
lying as I was on the lawn in the middle of the night, I knew it wouldn't
work. First of all, I knew that if someone was ever kind enough to do that
to me, I would never leave them alone; I would follow them to the ends
of the earth in the hopes that they would do it again. Second, and more
relevant under the circumstances, Ginger was female.
Quietly, without making any sudden moves, smiling all the while, I
reached under Ginger and grasped the rose. I backed off of the Abbotello's
lawn and, once on the street, ran down to the corner. By now all I wanted
to do was give Rosanna her damn rose and go home.
I turned the corner at a trot and sized up the situation. There was a
wild, noisy party going on in the house directly across the street from
Rosanna's, which was good, because it would provide a diversion as I
delivered the flower. I straightened myself up, picked up the rose, and
strolled down the sidewalk. I reached her front gate, gave a glance up and
down the street, and opened the gate. Just then, the lights went on in the
house, and her father kicked the screen door open with a crash!
I knew I was going to die then. He was holding what looked like a
shotgun in his hands, and I was expecting him to take aim and fire at me.
I rolled over the hood of a parked car and crawled away until I was in the
yard of the house next door. When I was hidden, I peeked through the
hedges at her father. What I took to be a shotgun in his hands was really
a tray of lasagne. He appeared to be as confused as I was. He gave a
glance around the hedges, as if he were not quite sure of what the hell
had just happened, then shrugged and crossed the street. He took the tray
to the party across the street.
I was fed up. By the looks of the moon I could tell it had to be near
midnight. I knew that there was going to be constant traffic between
Rosanna's house and the party, and that I would never be able to deliver
the rose safely that night. With all my strength, I flung the rose over
the hedges and into Rosanna's yard. By luck it landed in front of what I
believed to be her bedroom window. I gained a little satisfaction from
knowing that she would wake up tomorrow and see the rose from her window.

I woke up to find the world covered in white. I switched on the
clock-radio above my head to hear the story of how a freak storm blew down
from Canada last night, depositing 6 inches of snow in our area, with more
snow expected tonight. Rosanna, I knew, now wouldn't find the rose until
the first thaw in April. Without a word, I switched off the radio and went
back to sleep.

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