Wednesday 1 September 2021



by M. L. Owen


A trillium is a little flower that grows in forested areas. It has three petals, thus the name. It is also the name of this guy I know. He is not the little flower type, though he does come from a forested area. His folks were hippies or something. I've never met them, but he's told me about them.

            Trillium is a chemistry major and plays rugby. Rugby is like football without pads and everybody running in a bunch instead of individually. I have only seen one game, a part of one game. That was enough. I have no idea what the rules are, but it seemed as though someone was going to get killed before the game was over. I didn't want to witness that, so I left at the halftime, or whatever they call the break in rugby games.

            No one got killed, at least not in that game. Trillium did get a bloody nose. He also got drunk, but that was after the game, or so he told me. Personally, I think they were drinking during the game. I've heard that happens in rugby. I can understand that. I think they'd have to drink during the game in order to play the game.

            Besides getting a bloody nose and drunk, Trillium informed me as we sat behind some bushes in the wooded area outside the north dorms and shared a beer, he scored on a try. I think that's what he said, that he scored on a try. Maybe I just remember it that way because he attempted to score on another try shortly after that.

            I don't like women who are turned on by athletes. I don't like women who are turned on by blood. I don't like women who respond to drunken groping. I don't much like myself, sometimes.

            Up until that day, that night, that late afternoon-early evening, we'd been friends. There was a flirtatious side to the friendship, as there usually is in female/male relationships, but very little. There was more of what you could call guy/guy and girl/girl stuff.

            It’s like this: I'm a nerd and a bit of a tomboy. I'm not so much the jock kind of tomboy, I just like to be out there doing shit rather than sitting around talking about shit, most of the time. Maybe that's how I came to be a science nerd. It's definitely how I met Trillium. He's a science nerd, too. That's the guy/guy side of the relationship. That’s the part that started first. We met in a geology class. We were part of a group working on a field project studying exposed stratification and igneous intrusions, and it turned into an ice-riding food fight. Don't even ask.

            We started hanging out. It isn't just the two of us. There's a group, mostly nerds, who kind of hang out. Pizza. D and D. Movies. Stuff like that. Sometimes it's just the two of us, by chance. Not often, but sometimes.

            One of those times came just after I got the phone call from Mom saying that she and Dad were splitting up. It wasn't like it was a big surprise or anything; it'd been pretty obvious to me since junior high that they didn't get along very well, but, still, it was sort of a jolt. Trillium and I went out for pizza, and I guess I was being awfully quiet or moody or something, and he asked me about it. I didn't really want to talk about it, at least I didn't think I did, but before I knew it, all kinds of crap was coming out.

            He didn't comfort me or anything like that. He just listened and said it was shitty and talked a bit about his family, how fucked up they were, how he got his name, and stuff like that. We ended up talking for hours. After that, we had a lot of conversations like that. All right, not a lot, but every once in a while. That's the girl/girl stuff.

            All that's so lame. I know that men don’t just watch sports and punch each other in the shoulder: sometimes, some of them talk about feelings.  Likewise, women don’t just sit at home and knit. A lot of us go for the gusto or whatever. It's just that, in reality, in my reality, the stereotypes hold true more often than they don't.

            Still, I never thought about it in that light before. I mean, I didn't even consider what kind of relationship we had before. We were friends, period. I didn't even think that. I just accepted it. It was the way it was. I wasn't looking for anything else, and I'm pretty sure he wasn't looking either. Do I protest too much? I don't know. I do know I didn't protest too much when his hand went under my shirt behind the bushes under the trees outside the north dorms.

            Now, I'm not really what you might call an expert in these things. I suppose I have as much general, second-hand, knowledge of sexual matters as any other nineteen year old, partially college-educated coed. Maybe even a bit more. I'm a Bio major.

            No, let's be honest. I don't know shit about it. It's one of those fields where empirical research is essential. I suspect everyone I know knows more about sex than I do. Since that day, however, I've been on a mission to change all that, a cautious mission, it is true, but a mission nonetheless.

            Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not just going to jump into bed with him in order to get some experience. I tried that once before, just before I left for college. That's why I'm technically not a virgin.

            It wasn't anything like what I've read or heard about. For one thing, the hour of pleasure that people speak of was more like five minutes of mild discomfort, including a couple of minutes of the two of us trying to negotiate my hymen, a bit of him pumping his hips madly against mine, and at least of two minutes of Billy Lambert lying on top of me afterwards, panting. Then he got up and took a shower. Maybe people include the shower time. He was in there quite a while.

            I was bored.

            There had to be more to it than that. Can ten thousand songs be that wrong? Admittedly, Billy was very happy afterwards. I thought, maybe all those song-writers are men. He thought we should get married. When I turned him down he was both relieved and hurt.

            I thought I should go to college. He thought there was nothing left to learn. I thought I was really lucky I hadn't saved myself for marriage.

            I let him down as gently as possible. I explained that a jock should not marry a nerd. He was not really a jock, but he thought of himself as one. He played JV football. I believe he was flattered to hear that I thought of him as one.

            I went to college. He joined the Marines. A year later he married a girl he met at Fort Ord out in California. I got them a set of bath towels, on the theory that the best wedding gifts are a little bit sexy.

            The thing is, when Trillium and I went through our little gymnastic exercise, I wasn't a bit bored. It really was something like what they sing about. It was sort of like, I don't know, a food fight. You know you really shouldn't be doing it but it sure is fun, and part of the fun is that you really shouldn't be doing it.

            With a food fight, though, almost all of the fun is that you really shouldn't be doing it. Well, that and hitting someone square with a cube of Jello. There are parallels. When his hand went under my shirt, it was sort of like the first bit of food thrown. I stopped him from going any further but then stuck my hand under his shirt, and when I touched his nipple, I pinched it. A little. That was the cube of Jello to the face. He jumped about a foot. Then he pulled me closer and the hand under my shirt went under my bra and returned the pinch. I almost peed my pants. Maybe I did a little.

            I've never done that in a food fight, and I certainly didn't feel anything like that at any point with Billy Lambert. No, that's not entirely true. When we first got undressed, and I saw him naked, I felt a little bit like that, but it was gone as soon as we started trying to get it on. Maybe that would happen with Trillium as well. Maybe the real pleasure of sex is in the anticipation. Some things I've read seem to indicate that. Other of the things I've read seem to indicate that the real pleasure only starts after the wedding, or when the G spot gets attention, or when the handcuffs come into play. I don't know what to believe. I believe I read too much.

            The thing is, except for that once under the trees, Trillium has never laid a hand on me. Never before, of course, but never after either. I mean, really, what went wrong? Was it something I said? I don't think I said anything. Maybe I sort of groaned once or twice. I know he did. Or maybe that was me. I'm pretty sure it was both of us. Anyway, we were all over each other with our clothes half off, leaves in our hair, the whole bit. Then Sally Skiles and Shirley Wilcox from my floor in the dorm came by, and we froze, waiting for them to pass.

            They stopped six inches away from us, but on the other side of the bushes, to chat about whether the waiter at the pizza parlor was interested or gay. Okay, it was more like six feet, or maybe ten feet. It was very close. We hardly dared to breathe. I hardly dared to breathe. His breath continued. I know that because his mouth was right beside my breast. I could feel his breath. If I close my eyes I can still feel his breath on my breast.

            They moved away. Then he moved away. We straightened our clothes. We pulled leaves out of our hair. We stood up and walked out of the little forest. We didn't say anything about it. We haven't talked about it. We haven't been alone together again. 

            I close my eyes and feel his breath.

About the author

M. L. Owen lives and writes among the giant redwoods of Northern California and has had work published in a number of literary journals, including Bookends Review, Down In The Dirt, Poets & Writers (College of the Redwoods), Toyon, and others.



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