Gino Francisco and Skipping Rope
Gino Francisco is on the playground. He watches me when I am skipping rope.
Gino is bad. He gets sent out into the hall, he gets sent to the office, he pushed over Tara Braunagel’s desk and made her cry. He pulls hair. He swears.
My grandma knows his grandma. They play Bingo together at the church hall. My grandma says, “That Gino Francisco needs to be watched.”
I watch him. He has black curls and his mouth is too big. His name sounds like the jump rope when it soars over my head and slaps and hisses on the ground. Gino Fran-sis-co Gino Fran-sis-co. A whisk a puff of air a whiff down slap skip. Like that.
I love skipping rope with my friends. i like coffee i like tea i want rosie to jump in with me. After I jump, I sing the song, and call Barbara or Lisa in.
Gino Francisco is watching me. I am afraid he will chase me, or pull my hair, or spit water from the drinking fountain at me. I look away. Inside, I call him in to the spinning rope.
My friends are singing don’t forget the red hot peppers.
I like jump rope rhymes. I like the rhythm, the rush of air, the way it makes my heart race.
When I am twelve, Gino Francisco comes to the back door. My grandma holds her arm across it, keeping him out. He looks over her arm at me, sitting at the yellow table with my books and papers.
“Can Rosie come out?” he asks.
He is holding a jump rope, the yellow kind from the school. It looks dangerous in his hands. He needs a haircut. He squints up through his bangs.
My grandma is a sharp woman. “She’s doing her homework,” she says, and she doesn’t use her polite voice. “You don’t need to play with Rosie. Go play with the big boys. Get out of here.”
Gino smiles over her arm at me. He passes the yellow rope through his hands. The sun is beautiful in his dark curls. “Okay,” he says.
Grandma closes the door on him, and I see him through the glass, walking away. He throws the rope over the fence as he goes.
Grandma’s eyes are watchful. “That Gino Francisco,” she says. “He steals. Don’t talk to him.”
Later, I go into the alley and pick the rope up from behind the garbage can. It has tape on the ends to keep it from fraying, to make a handle. Grandma is right, the rope is stolen. The numbers of my classroom are written on the handle. I double it, I twirl it, I skip down the paved walk next to the vegetable garden. The heat of the day smells good in the tomato plants and green things.
down in the valley where the green grass grows
sat little annie as sweet as a rose
along came a boy and kissed her on the cheek
why annie you ought to be ashamed
got a little boyfriend and you don’t know his name
what is his name? a b c d e f g
I am very careful not to trip on the letter g, because Grandma is watching. She tells me to water the garden. She tells me I’m too old to be skipping rope.
“I know, I know,” I say.
She tells me not to be smart.
“No problem,” I say, trying out my new smart mouth. I like the sound of it.
Gino Francisco is waiting for me, when I am seventeen. He is standing behind the chain link fence of the schoolyard, watching me.
This time, I don’t look away. He is smoking a cigarette, he holds it between his thumb and forefinger. He doesn’t cut his hair anymore, he wears it in a ponytail. He has a little gold ring hanging from his ear. He looks like trouble, and I walk straight to him, feeling my skirt swinging from my hips.
He looks good, leaning against the bricks. He smokes, his eyes smoke.
I walk past the little girls jumping rope. My skirt keeps rhythm with the turn and slap of the song.
three six nine, the goose drank wine the monkey chewed tobacco on the street car line
the lion choked the monkey croaked and they all went to heaven in a little row boat
But not me. I am going straight to hell in Gino Francisco’s Mercury Cougar.
Gino teaches me to smoke. He watches me when I do it, watches the clouds rush past my lips. “Baby,” he says, laughing at the way I choke. Within a week, I can smoke.
I write his name on my notebooks Gino Francisco Gino Francisco Gino Francisco Gino Francisco Gino Francisco Gino Francisco. I stare out the windows of the classroom, waiting to see his car outside the fence. He likes my gold skin, he likes my black curls. I write his name, over and over. Abracadabra, a magic spell. Gino Francisco Gino Francisco
He carries a bag of weed in the glove box, and he teaches me to roll joints. I like this, the perfumed smoke that sends rushes of lights to my head. Everything I say is funny. Gino’s laughter makes my face warm. He likes the Rolling Stones. He sings to me.
He sells, too, passing plastic bags of green crumbly weed out the car window to his friends. “Fuck off,” he tells them, when they look at me or try to speak with me.
Gino is a man of few words. I decide this is romantic.
He drags on the joint, and teaches me how to open my mouth to his, and inhale it back.
His mouth is not too big, anymore. Smoke and silk and heat, and the taste of Gino Francisco on my tongue.
My grandma watches me with angry eyes. “You don’t ever see that Gino Francisco, do you?” she asks.
“Hell, no,” I say. Gino in my mouth.
She slaps me on the back of the head.
“Don’t,” she says. She looks like a pigeon, her breast puffing up.
He steals. He steals wine from his mother’s basement, and we drink it, sitting on the hill far above the schoolyard. Summer, and the smell of dry grass and leaves in my hair and red wine in my veins and Gino’s mouth against mine. I can almost smell autumn, waiting somewhere.
We pass a joint back and forth. The city looks gold in the late afternoon. Our skin is gold and warm in the sun. Stoned, warm. The sound of the wine bubbling down the dark green throat of the bottle. I can see the little kids playing on the playground. I wonder what song they are singing .Gino is singing Pink Floyd. The car is parked beyond the trees and the radio is singing with him.
He doesn’t say much, but he has a secret name for me, and when he whispers it in my ear it feels like dark red velvet. He takes off his gold cross, and hangs it around my neck. His skin smells like sunlight. I take off my shirt, too, and like the way the sun feels, and the way it makes my skin glow, the way it makes Gino's eyes glow. “Now you’re mine,” he says. He puts his dangerous mouth where the cross hangs between my breasts.
easy ivy over laying in the clover
sang so high sang so sweet along came a boy and he kissed her on the cheek
wet rose there it goes everything is over
i like the rhythm i like the song i like the way gino lifts into the sky and the way I feel beneath him Gino Francisco Gino Francisco Gino Francisco
He drops me off a block from my house, and smokes while he watches me walk down the sidewalk. I am wearing Gino Francisco’s leather coat, wearing the smell of him in my hair, my mouth, on my thighs. Wine and smoke and secret names. His gold cross is swaying between my breasts.
I walk proudly, with my head high. I sway my hips for his eyes.
My grandma is sitting in the living room in the half dark. She is watching a gameshow, loud with bells and buzzers.
She is wearing a cotton housedress and holding the tv guide in her hand. Her eyes are hollow and bitter when she sees me.
She is a sharp woman. She knows it is too late to say anything.
She says, “Go wash your face.”
Gino Francisco sells weed out of the window of his car until he goes to jail. When he comes back, he sells cocaine out of the window of his car. He goes away for a longer time. When he comes back, he does not look for me.
I go to college, and marry a man with a dull name. It does not slap or hiss or whisk air into the sky. It sits like a fried egg on a plate.
When I smoke, the scent of Gino Francisco floats around my face.
amy muldoon ©2003