Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Saije Bashaw: Project: Candy: Botched Valentine

My first botched valentine was when I was somewhere in my prime of grade school. To be honest I cannot remember exactly how old I was. What I do remember, is my teacher. He was about 6’2”, bald; wore a crisp white short sleeve shirt, black pants, and perfectly shined black shoes. He walked around the room while he instructed us— carrying within his outstretched arms across the length of his body a wooden yardstick. Not a ruler mind you but a yardstick. He would bend it along with the pace of his walk. The cadence of his stride in sync with his voice and a constant-bend bend bending. One would think that the sight of this would be a scary thing for a child. Yet, it wasn’t to me. Somehow it gave me a sense of what was expected of me.

The rhythm of his walk seemed oddly calming. I also knew not to cross him. He was consistent in his pattern; he would walk the same route hour after hour. He was a human metronome. He never once struck any of the students with the yardstick nor made reference that he would. He would tap the rim of the chalkboard loudly to make a point every once in awhile that alone was the extent of his discipline. I know this image sounds cliché and that everyone has seen it in some film or read about it in a book, or imagined it. He existed in a larger than life way. With all my heart I tell you it is true. Speaking of hearts. This story is not about my teacher. It is about my first
botched valentine.

In describing the aforementioned I realize that perhaps the atmosphere my teacher had created had much to do with my failure. How could love survive with him pacing the room? Anyway…, moving on.

There was this boy this beautiful soft spoken boy, with cornflower blue eyes. I was fascinated with him. It was the way he carried himself. And when I say carried himself I am speaking of the way he carried himself. You see he walked on his tippy toes. He ran walked and occasionally stood on them. The other children would tease him; especially when he ran. But to me it was the most beautiful thing to watch. He looked like some strange gorgeous intriguing creature. His canter intoxicated me. When he would say hello to me or pass me something in class my tummy became woozy.

Finally, a moment came when I could express myself to him. Valentines Day.
Tapping into all of my childhood resources I spent the evening before the big day making him a lavish deep red card from construction paper complete with lace that my grandmother gave me, glitter and my best rendition of snoopy.

The next morning I gathered all the change I had saved and stopped with my mother along the way to school to purchase a few items to go along with the illustrious card I had created. Obviously the best thing you can offer another kid is candy. So I bought as much as I could and made sure to sprinkle in a few of my own personal favorites. Such as watermelon jolly ranchers and bottle caps. For good measure I spent my last few cents on a Twinkie.

I went to school and when the time came to give away our Valentine cards I was so excited and terrified all at once. I walked around the room slowly passing out my little box of generic cards to each of my classmates. Then when I came to my blue eyed shining star I shyly placed my little bag of love filled treats on his desk and walked away.

I watched intently as he opened it. And, everyone else was watching him too. It was the only bag of anything passed out that day.

All the other kids sat there with their sad little pile of cards while my new friend had the fabulous package I had made him. He looked at the card and the proceeded to open bag.

The room became really silent very quickly. The only noise being the crinkle of the bag he was opening and the sound of children concentrating, an orchestra of shifting wooden chairs, and small mouths breathing heavily. Each noise complimenting another. During this brief moment I was on the cusp of childhood insanity. Waiting was something I was not good at, yet. I was able to watch him just long enough to witness the surface of his lily white skin turn a perfect pink hue. He was not in awe of his gift as I had expected.

Then the room abruptly turned into coos, snickers and laughter. I was too young to know the fine art of giving Valentine Day cards. My conscience had yet to discover subtlety. While I was quickly learning this lesson in the darkest few minutes of my young life.

That yard stick that seemed so omnipresent but not too frightful changed. I heard a cracking sound followed by another then another and another. It was a thunder of wood snapping down on wood. My teacher was raising his voice and yelling, “quiet!” and “stop!” and so on. It seemed like forever but eventually everyone listened. Then it was silent. And all eyes were on me.


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