In all my life there have only been a handful of moments when it seemed to me that time stood still, that moment when all motion slows down to almost a halt, heightening the effect of what is about to happen. Usually this occurred during fights just as I was about to get hit. This time the moment was brought to a crawl so that I could fully absorb everything Lisa was exuding. Like licking an envelope, saliva alows it stick, and everything about her started to cling to me as she went by. All I heard was the throbbing of my heart playing inside my head. Like I said, this was rare for me. The cosmos had shone a spotlight on what was finally a good moment in my life. Although technically I was a seventh grader I felt more like an eighth grader trapped in a seventh graders social situation. If I hadn’t been held back a year I would have joined the glorious cast of teenagers in eighth grade who already resembled adults in every possible way.
I glanced at them when Greg had pointed out where we were so supposed to line up. For being eighth graders they all seemed so glamorous even in parochial school uniforms, clothing that’s designed to make everyone nondescript. They stood out from the rest of the classes. From first grade to seventh it seemed as if all the students, myself and Greg included, were still evolving. The eighth graders however had evolved, each one a butterfly who had yet to fly away. The guys all looked like full grown men in their plaid ties, light blue shirts,and navy blue slacks,while the rest of the male population looked like they were playing dress up. The girls were all different levels of beauty with the least attractive one being merely pretty, a quality that would have made her a beauty queen at St Lucy’s.
Along with being grown up, the eighth grade girls also seemed stuck up, like my older sisters and their friends, teenagers who bypassed adolescence and went full throttle in to adulthood regardless of how worldly they weren’t.
After seeing the guys and girls of eighth grade I quickly became grateful to the nuns at St Ann’s for holding me back a year.
There was no way I was ready to be tossed into what looked like a such sophisticated and mature group.(Later on I learned they weren’t really that) I would have been twice as miserable if I had been alowed to enter the eight grade the way my grades had suggested I should. Seeing Lisa Lydia Rivera at that moment seconded that motion.
As beautiful as the eighth grade girls were not one of them could hold my attention the way Lisa did on that day. It was as if the powers that be had taken their collective thumb and first finger, used it to turn my head in her direction, and held it there as she walked by. Nothing and no one existed at that moment.
Watching her go by was like getting a glimpse at some glorious future, her presence at that moment a sort of ground floor for something wonderful. While the eighth grade girls had already blossomed,band in plenty of instances peaked, Lisa who I later on found out from Greg was in the sixth grade, looked like she was only going to get better as time went by. Dressed in a red frilly blouse with short sleeves and dark blue jeans, just seeing her felt right. Her walk was more like the shimmy or sashay that little girls practice in front of a mirror with their mother’s high heels on, practicing for the day they would become women. Lisa’s hips shifted from side to side in an almost uneven stride that was still compeling.
A silver clip held her long jet black hair back in a pony tail that traveled down her back in a steady stream of darkness. That’s how straight it was. By holding her hair back with that silver clip it seemed as if she were marking herself with a small sign of elegance, the promise of something she was going to pick up on step by step as she marched to womanhood. The clothes and hair were merely icing on the cake, a sprinkling of gold dust on a diamond. Although the eighth grade girls were very developed physicaly, Lisa who had just started to develop gave another promise of better things to come for any lucky guy who was patient enough to wait for her. The hint of curves and mounds peeking out along her body would make sure of it. Her skin was lightly tanned not by the summer recess but by genetics, giving her a smooth complexion like coffee colored porcelain. A round cherub face rested on her long slender neck as if it were a pedestal, displaying the face of a sly angel with small, full lips that almost seemed puckered. Her nose was a small plug of flesh with the only mark on her being a tiny scar that ran across the bridge of it. To use a quote so maligned by ghetto slang:The girl was working it, or what little of it she had so far and it was working exceptionally well on me, carting off every once of my attention with her as she walked by. Watching her at that moment was like watching the innocence of youth gracefuly give way to adulthood, It wouldn’t even be too far fetched of me to call Lisa sexy, or as sexy as a fourteen year old boy with a limited and somewhat misconstrued perception of what made a girl sexy could muster up.
Up until that moment my lexicon of what a woman was and how she should carry herself had been limited, corrupted, and defined by the small but oh so effective battalion of women in my life; my mother and 5 sisters, their friends, and the girls I went to school with, four different dynamics that delivered two different messages during my formative years when my general introduction in to the world felt more like I was walking the plank.
From my mother I received the impression that women were a more forgiving species than men, their inclusion in my life a comfort zone warranted by the powers that be.
Remember, men,starting off with my father,were a constant disappointment, one I had come to expect and always received en mass. Women,however,proved to be a lot trickier, at least as far as my sisters, their friends,and classmates were concerned.
They were more of a mirage, a halucination appearing to a dehydrated man in the dessert . The moment you reach out to touch it, it’s gone. From those three groups of women I learned more about equality than from anyone else. I learned about scorn and sufferance. I learned that any number greater than one means you’re out numbered, and with five sisters, a worthless father, and elementary school girls thinking that boys are icky and have cooties, I was outnumbered.
Reality hadn’t spared me any illusions, no perfunctory fairy tales to steady me like training wheels during my formative years. I wasn’t eased into adulthood through shallow waters. Instead I was thrust into it, thrown in to the deep end of the pool where I was drowning in all types of awful truths. And while I didn’t expect anything good from my fellow man,bthanks to my father, I thought women would be different because of my mother.
I thought all women both young and old were more nurturing. Christ was I wrong. My mother wasn’t good because she was a woman,
she was good because she was the exception to the rule. Truth be told men and women really aren’t all that different especialy in this day and age. Both sexes are human, meaning their liable to lack humanity, all the good qualities that help taper off what is human about us, our natural responses to situations:hate, anger, etc, etc. Back then I didn’t know that you had to learn to be good.
If there was anything good about me it was because of my
mother and my mother was only my mother. Her influence only went so far. It didn’t
follow me to school, or to the playground. It barely carried over to my sisters who were
busy trying to establish their own sense of womanhood, one that would resemble
my mother’s, causing resentment, but they were all busy rebeling against hers in an effort to strike out on their own. Reality had saddled me with three different perceptions of womanhood: women as mothers, women as adversaries, and women as equals. I couldn’t make sense of any of it, benot with my fourteen year old brain.
Now Lisa Lydia Rivera had
crossed my path and I was left to deal with a whole new dynamic:women as lovers or
girlfriends. Being on the cusp of adolescence was already scary. It was like looking over the edge of a skyscraper, making you too terrified to take the plunge. Now this pretty girl had made it even scarier,filling me with this overwhelming curiosity. It was like spotting a new species,or finding the missing link, that moment in evolution when progress was actually seen being made instead assuming that it was.
Yet I wouldn’t say that moment I first saw Lisa was love at first sight. Love, real love, is a brick by brick process. What I felt for her at that moment was more along the lines of a large person finding an article of clothing in their size. Here I was wincing my way through adolescence, while Lisa was easing her way gracefuly through it. I was amazed that it could be done that way. That and the fact that she was a cutie.
Everything returned to normal the second she went by, but just before she passed us to meet up with a few friends who were standing a couple of feet away, she tossed up a smile, not in my direction though. The corners of her small puckered mouth rose the way arms do in victory, a triumph with what she had done to me. As she walked by us, I noticed another thing:both her shoe laces were untied,giving her an air of vulnerability. It was magnificent. My heart just melted.