Jorge Milanes Despaigne
“Laying the first stone” is a phrase that more than one Cuban boy or girl has communicated, or at least heard. It’s not new in settings where there coexist the glamour of one’s early youth and realization of a teenager’s inexperience.
I heard it said the other morning by a boy from a technical school to another classmate who rode to school on the same bus.
It made me immediately recall my days in junior high when I used to look at the spandex outfit that looked so good on the most popular girl back then, as my other classmates and I jockeyed for her attention.
I used to dream about Guillermina, as we called her, but my shyness kept me from telling her how much I liked her. Apparently having made myself obvious, I was given advice by another schoolboy who told me: “Lay the first stone.”
I don’t know what ever happened to Guillermina; she left Cuba when she completed the seventh grade.
Later I learned that sincerity is an invincible arm and that one cannot quiet one’s feelings. In the course of those trials I also allowed myself to be influenced by my friends, and in this way I had my first girlfriend. She wasn’t as beautiful as Guillermina, but she had an amazing smile that some people even today will mention when we talk about those times.
I also thought about the first romance of my grandfather, who didn’t appeal to a friend to intercede on his behalf to initiate the courtship. Instead, he waited for a moment when the young woman —who would end up being my grandmother— was alone, and then he gently tossed a little pebble at her as an expression of the attractiveness she generated in him. Later came the looks, his approaching her, and the words that could well be described by some bard as gallant.
Though we’re no longer so romantic in these modern times, and most people have forgotten that “old style” of courtship, I applaud the courage of our predecessors. They would search for the precise phrase that they —not others— knew best to convey.