Jelly has always meant love to me. Whenever someone close to me has been sick, I respond almost instinctively with a bowl of jelly. Raspberry jelly is my favourite. So it is invariably raspberry. My friend’s little boy is sick and so today I will make him some raspberry jelly to soothe the throat and comfort the taste buds. For as long as I can remember this has been my victory cry in the face of any ailment. Stirring the jelly, I think on a sickly boy from my youth. Jonathan. The new boy in our class when I was eleven. When I was eleven and had a crush on Macaulay Culkin after watching My Girl. When I was eleven and never went anywhere without my large glass stoned mood ring. I think on Jonathan again.
He was tall and gangly for his age and pale skinned and freckled with blonde hair and soft, kind brown eyes. He made me think on a watercolour painting, all delicate and faded, muted tones. An ephemerality to a special kind of beauty that was his. And gentle in his nature, though skilled in soccer.
He was often ill, and dutifully I would visit the apartment where he and his single mother lived close by our school. They seemed poorer off than my own single mother and I. And I adopted a strange brand of compassion for him. Always bearing on my visits a big bowl of raspberry jelly. Whether we talked much or not I cannot recall. Maybe we simply sat in easy silence sharing a bowl of jelly. We made little fanfare of each while school was in session. But in these times, when he was ill and at home, we were friends.
Sometimes I wonder if he wasn’t my first love. Platonic as it was. My first love all the same. When I was still too young to truly ponder on the nature of love beyond the realm of the cinematic, answering only to its call with a bowl of jelly.
But I can still see his face so clearly today. And knowing my type as I do, the quieter, gentler specimens that beckon me to them with my heart’s longing, I can see how this might have been an early blossoming for me. Young as I was then, and still so green, living more in books than in the real world where kissing games like spin the bottle were becoming the order of the day. I shied away from such games altogether. Finding in them something coarse and not nearly as romantic as I would’ve wished. Not nearly as romantic as the young boy in My Girl who risks his life for the girl he loves and is tragically felled by that very heroism.
What I had and what I felt for Jonathan was sweet and pure and good. Untainted. Nurturing. And while we may not have taken our friendship beyond the confines of his humble apartment, I did watch on from afar on school days, taking heart that he was okay, and caring when he did not show up to school and was sick yet again.
And so I sample a spoonful of raspberry jelly and reminisce on days of innocence gone by, where romantic love remained unspoiled by hormones, and platonic love was of the highest order. I sample a spoonful of raspberry jelly and think on that sweet, mild-mannered and sickly boy of watercolours who in my own small way, I worshipped so very much. I long for those days, when things were so much simpler and love so utterly uncomplicated and unburdened. And the jelly tastes sweet and like long-lost childhood and my heart remembers.
Featured art: Summer Fruit Jelly by Joel Penkman