07 June 2011

What's in a Rose?

Like many an adolescent, I was infatuated with a girl in my class in sixth grade.  I won't name her, but for anyone who might wish to conduct an investigation I will tell you that our math class seating chart was arranged alphabetically and she sat next to me in every configuration I recall.  Toward the end of the year we had been rearranged and now she sat to my left.  She was fairly popular and all that and I was, to be kind, not.  I was a pimply geek with a bad haircut, horribly out of touch with pop culture.  I tried to amuse her with jokes whenever the opportunity presented itself, but that was the extent of my boldness.  I knew better.

So one day it happened that we were all working on some task or another and our teacher was out of the room for an extended length of time.  Why this was the case I cannot say, but it afforded my classmates an opportunity to chat amongst themselves.  I had no conversation partner, as She Who Must Not Be Named turned away from me to chat with someone else.  No matter, I wanted to complete the assignment at hand and anyway I had no new material to try out on her.

Then it happened.

I sneezed.

And out of my nose came an impossibly long line of snot.

Seriously, it nearly touched the desk.  I was in the middle of the classroom with no access to any kind of tissue.  I knew it was only a matter of time before someone saw.  I did what my Irish and Scottish ancestors have done for centuries: I thought on my feet and acted quickly.  I snuffed it right back up into my nose.

And that's when I noticed that She Who Must Not Be Named had turned around just in time to see me retract a bright yellow tentacle into my face.

She laughed, surprised more than anything, I think, but never said a word to me about it.  Or anything else, for that matter.  Like I said, it was near the end of the school year.  I trudged through, kept my head down and just waited for summer.

The next year, we had no classes together but she remained on my list of girls I found attractive but knew better than to approach.  (It was a long list.)  Now, why it happened that I had the impulse I had, I cannot tell you because I cannot recall.  I'm simply prone to embarrassingly grand gestures, I suppose.

I got it into my head that a bright idea would be to bring a rose to She Who Must Not Be Named.  At school.  Where other people could actually see this taking place.  People who already had marginalized me and let me know I was not one of them.  Sure.  What could go wrong?

Into the gymnasium I walked, carrying this rose (where I got it and how I explained it to my mom, who must surely have seen me take it with me that morning, I cannot recall).  Naturally, it called a lot of attention to itself.  I took my customary place about seven rows up into the bleachers and waited for the bell to ring, releasing us to migrate to our first period classrooms.  During that time I was the talk of the bleachers.  I heard jokes of various natures (most juvenile, some offensive).  At least one popular girl came directly to me to ask where that rose was headed.  I coyly avoided answering, and she left still curious.

The intended recipient never ventured into the gym that morning or, as near as I can recall, any morning.  By this point I knew I had to rid myself of the albatross as quickly as possible so I stalked the halls (that sounds a little threatening, doesn't it?) until I found her.  In the time it took me to find her, I had attracted quite a following.  I can't speak for any of the witnesses, but I guessed at the time they were all hoping that it would lead to a big laugh of some kind.  Maybe I was going to woo a girl just as much an outcast as me, and we would become the Anti-Homecoming King & Queen.  Maybe it was for a popular girl, who would no doubt put me in my place and satisfy all her peers who would naturally resent any attempt by me to pursue a girl of their caste.

As it was, I found her.  I can't recall what I said, but I know it was very simple.  Something like, "I'd like you to have this."  I figured the rose itself was a surprise and with a crowd formed the moment was already a circus.  No need to proclaim that I'd spent the better part of the previous school year staring at her and thinking impure thoughts.

I'd love to tell you that this at least ended with something spectacular, worthy of being in the next American Pie direct-to-video sequel but the truth is I think every person there was disappointed.  She simply refused to take the rose, and with a slightly panicked look on her face, walked away to her class.

I hung my head.  The crowd, their curiosity satisfied but not their thirst for spectacle, dispersed.  I caught a look of pity from a classmate whom I knew to be a friend of She Who Must Not Be Named and I asked her hastily if she would try to complete the delivery for me.  Graciously, she took the rose from me and said she'd try.

To this day I cannot tell you what became of that rose.  I heard several accounts throughout the rest of that day.  One held that she had thrown it away.  A variation of that story informed me she had brutally destroyed it, petal by petal, before discarding its mutilated remains.  I was told it went into her locker, where it wilted and died by day's end (something about a lack of water and sunshine or something; I don't know, I'm not a botanist).  It was rumored to have found its way to an unidentified third party altogether, as a sort of souvenir of the embarrassing incident.  Whatever became of it, I can confirm that it did not lead to anything positive for me.  I've not exchanged one word with She Who Must Not Be Named since that morning 20 years ago.

There is an amusing coda to this story, however.  Shortly after I crashed and burned, one of the popular guys brought flowers of some kind to impress one of the popular girls and it worked.  Now, I suspect it was entirely unnecessary given that they were in the same social strata, but nevertheless I took some small measure of pleasure at having been the trailblazer.