Center of the Heavens

All I wanted in high school was a date with Francine Little, the Pekingese puppy. An inexplicably magnetic agglomeration of parts she was. Seemingly mismatched parts if viewed separately, and yet her upturned nose, her chunky cheeks, her too skinny legs, all came together genetically to form a girl who did not look even a little bit like anybody else— unrecognizable as traditionally cute.

I still can’t explain to myself why she mesmerized me.

But I would stand staring into the mirror, imagining her reaction to any part of myself, how beautiful I was in my own secret opinion. Then to take her view, I could not decide on the color of shirt to wear, the fragrance to lavish onto my neck. The tone of my voice: how would I sound if I wore yellow instead of blue? Would her upturned nose be offended by one more dickhead scented with English Leather?

And then in third period English class, walking to her desk in the back of the room, she would pass, her eyes flashing with invitation, making promises that back then she couldn’t possibly have kept. But the invitation would be to watch her go as the paradox of the puppy, the “cute” that could not be explained, unfurled like a flag, resting at the tops of her too skinny legs. Francine’s rear end sashayed in 4/4 time, to a melody only she could have written. No god of any size would have given her that musical instrument without his own designs on playing it for keeps.

She carried herself like concert soloist, her backside on her shoulders.

That way of summarizing a person’s character—to say that so-and-so runs around with their ass on their shoulders—would ordinarily signify a lack of justification for that person’s high opinion of themselves. But we are not talking about an opinion here, nor a metaphor for self-delusion.

Francine’s backside was elevated, possibly by some trick of the invitation and promise of her eyes transferred from front to rear. So it was, her glutius maximus, the focal point of her being as she moved away in space. And then in time. It hovered in memory, oscillating subtly, accentuated by the flag of a wrap-around skirt, or more to the point, when hot weather would strike, the oversized bandaid of an old-style two-piece bathing suit bottom.

The cliche of a heart-shaped ass would have been understandable, conventionally cute. But she was none of that on either end. Her backside was unconventional too, and I am not deputized with memories of the exact curvatures—only her way of toting it around, of keeping it elevated effortlessly.

Francine Little enthralled me, off and on my whole life, until last Friday night at Cagney’s, I held hands with her for about five seconds, and it all came back. I was there again, a boy pilgrim on bended knees ready to crawl across broken glass.

The brilliance of her backside followed her into the crowd, her memory a distant comet circling a sun that was never was me. My vanity abides.