“This is just a simple “Keith-short” I spontaneously wrote while recovering from shoulder surgery. I want to include some shorter, light works in the mix. I hope you enjoy it…Love, Keith
There it was. A Facebook post about kindergarten naps caught my attention and it isn’t long before “she” comes to mind. In my little blue knapsack, slung over my shoulder, was my favorite yellow “blannie”. After reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and using the extra wide Crayola crayons for some artwork, our kindergarten teacher, Miss Walczak, would shut down the harsh, fluorescent overhead lighting. As we lay our heads on pillows, on the polished floors, to refresh our young bodies, the day would drift off. While it seemed an hour it was a mere fifteen minutes of quiet solitude among thirty boisterous children. It was never my intention to frighten her, but everyday I’d try to position my soft, yellow blanket next to hers. She was the first female to captivate me. Today I would most likely be expelled for entering her personal space, but in hindsight it was a risk I was willing to take.
She was neither American nor a citizen, her father was here on a work Visa. Her words were crumbled bits of the English language, pulsed together like butter and flour in a Cuisinart before baking. It made no difference, for love is the universal language. I can’t remember the details of her entry into the United States but she was Swedish, from the top of her towhead hair to the buckles on her MaryJane’s. Her name was Helena and I fell for her. Helena wore her hair in tightly spun pig tails. Each fell on either side to her shoulders, bouncing with every movement she made.
Her skin which clearly had little exposure to direct sunlight, was alabaster, in direct contrast to my cousins, who were of an olive complexion. I’d pretend I too had the same hair in the privacy of my bedroom, disassembling the string mop head from its base and placing it on my head. Pulling it evenly from side to side I’d form perfect pigtails. It smelled of Mr. Clean but what of it? It still lives as a mystery to me whether I loved Helena or the idea of “being” Helena.
Now, as nap time concluded, we returned to our seats and our daily lessons. Helena and I abutted a corner, allowing me close proximity to her. As the teacher passed out the small, waxed cartons of whole milk and graham cracker cookies, I made my move. Creeping toward her, my small index and middle fingers walked across the desk in order to make contact with the delicate skin. There was no question this was an overt profession of my love. As they walked across the high urethane finish of our table, she raised her hand and, in a moment of heated passion, slapped mine. Not once but twice. I recoiled. Her face twisted into disdain, her brows furrowing. She came at me and slapped my hand again. Devastated and dejected, I withdrew. Heartbreak. My hope was that no one had seen the altercation, moreover the humiliation in me, but I knew that was not the case. I never attempted to woo my first love again.
Stepping into the shower today, a grown man, I began to wash. As the water and frothy shampoo fell from my head the memory of Helena surfaced. Then, as I played it over, there was an epiphany.
“Oh my God,” I said loudly, “It was the cookies.”
Rob looked at me but paid no attention. If I’m not singing in the shower I’m blurting out nonsense.
I remembered my move into Helena’s space as we were having milk and cookies. It would make perfect sense for her to think I was trying to steal one. Fifty three years later my crime was solved. My ego, dealt a blow at an early age, knew it was all about transparency and perception. I meant Helena no harm but she didn’t know that. She thought I wanted her cookies and worse, wanted to take them without asking. And I, though simply a little boy, had learned three valuable lessons. “Ask for what you want, don’t just take it.” “Be clear, what you are thinking no one else knows” and “Hell hath no fury like a person whose cookies are about to be taken without permission.” All of which have served me well throughout my life.