Six of my dormitory friends and I were seated around a cafeteria table discussing gender relations when my girlfriend Laurie decided to chime in.
"I heard something today," she said smugly, "Women don't envy penises, they covet them."
The two other women at the table stared at her in disbelief.
Something about that phrase didn't make sense, but I thought better than to question her in public. I did hope to have sex with her that night.
My roommate Bill, however, had no stake in saving her face. He laughed and said, "Where'd you hear that?"
"A professor said it," Laurie replied, beginning to sound a bit defensive.
"Was it a male professor?" asked Bill.
"Well, yes. But, he's a very progressive thinker...for a man," she said, then nervously winked at the women at the table. They offered no response.
Bill leaned in and asked, "Do you even know what covet means?"
"Of course," said Laurie, "It means 'to shun.'"
We were college freshmen at the time, so Laurie could be forgiven for not knowing she had just spouted crass anti-feminist rhetoric. I had wondered myself if perhaps I didn't know the definition of the word. It wasn't a term I had heard very often. The only familiar context I could recall was from the Ten Commandments: "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife." Sure, I thought, you shouldn't shun your neighbor's wife. That's not very nice.
Looking back, it was times like these that made me think Laurie and I were made for each other. We were, after all, both ditzes. People considered us smart because we were well groomed and didn't swear a lot, but deep down we were kinda flaky. We were only allowed to join deep discussions because we kept our mouths shut most of the time. Our shyness was our greatest social asset. That, and our comically benign appearance. I had strawberry blonde hair and she a brunette bob, causing people to look at us and say, "Look, it's Richie and Mary Beth from 'Happy Days.'"
Eventually, our wholesome image would be tainted by circumstance. We both had roommates who never seemed to leave our rooms, so Laurie and I were forced to satisfy each other in our dormitory study hall. We always went there intending to prepare for class, but we would inevitably wind up doing something that someone would walk in on. It only took a couple of these episodes before we had followed our urges into infamy.
One scene in particular fixed our place in the rumor mill. It was a unusually warm afternoon in early spring, and Laurie and I were laying out on the lawn in front of the dorm trying to tan our lily-white bodies. We were surrounded by dozens of our classmates, most of whom happened to be women. As Laurie lay on her back in a nearly comatose state, I rolled over on my stomach to gaze at the awesome spectacle. Breasts and buttocks that had been hidden all winter were now showcased in a stunning array of young, supple flesh that would put a beer commercial to shame.
It didn't take long before a development inside my bathing suit prompted a change of scenery. I remembered that Bill's parents were in town that day to buy him a new tuner for his stereo. Knowing Bill was very finicky about his hi-fi equipment, I figured he would probably take hours to find what he was looking for--or at least long enough for Laurie and I to usher in the new season.
I lightly nudged Laurie in the ribs with my elbow and whispered, "Let's go upstairs."
She kept her eyes shut and wrinkled her nose. "No," she whined, "I wanna get a tan."
I couldn't bear another moment of unrequited arousal, so I had to get Laurie in the mood. In a less public situation, I could have employed the usual methods like kissing her neck or massaging her nether regions, but being out in the open required a more subtle approach.
Since I had been an avid cyclist most of my life, my thighs were rock-hard and incredibly well defined. They more than made up for my concave chest, and Laurie often joked that she only loved me for my legs. With this in mind, I slid closer to her and squeezed her leg between my legs. It worked like a charm. She let out a soft, deep moan, and within seconds had tossed her sunscreen into her purse, risen to her feet and wrapped her towel around her hips.
Less than two minutes later, we were back in my room. Because my bed was propped up by a shaky platform of milk cartons to make storage room beneath, it was a less-than-ideal platform for the making of love. So, naturally, we leapt onto Bill's bed.
Our romps in the study hall had always been exciting, but this rare moment of intimacy was lasting longer and feeling much more passionate because we could be as loud and as naked as we needed. That is, until I heard Bill's voice out in the hallway.
My first reaction was mild embarrassment, since I knew it would be nearly impossible to hide the fact that we were cavorting on his bed. Then I heard his parents' voices, and I began to panic. I suddenly remembered their shopping trip and considered the awful truth that they would not just be dropping him off and saying good-bye; they would want to come in to set up the stereo. One of the few things that Bill had in common with his father was a love for Eric Clapton. There would be no easy way out of this.
"Oh shit," I said to Laurie, "Get under my bed."
"What?" she said angrily.
When we heard Bill slide his key into the lock, Laurie lost her look of indignation, snatched up her one-piece bathing suit and darted under my bed in the opposite corner of the room. My bed was about four feet off the floor, with a sheet draped across the storage space, so she easily disappeared from view.
Luckily, the door opened in the other direction, so I had about three seconds to leap across the room and cover myself from the waist down. With my adrenaline pumping and my mind firing on all cylinders, I quickly determined that it would take at least five seconds to locate and step into my bathing suit, so I grabbed the first piece of cloth within reach. I ripped my blanket off the bed, wrapped it around my hips, then sat down at my desk, opened my physics book and began to study.
Bill must have heard the commotion, because he peered around the door slowly. When he saw that no one else was in the room, he looked very confused.
"Hey man," I said. "You get a new tuner?"
"Uh, yeah," he said, moving into the room with great apprehension.
My face felt so hot, I was sure it was as red as a tomato.
His father walked in, followed his stepmother, whom I had never met before. I felt bad about not rising to greet them, but I didn't dare stand up. I wasn't sure how tightly I had wrapped the blanket around my waist, and I didn't want to check, lest I call more attention to the fact that I was sitting at my desk wearing only a wool blanket.
The smell of sex hung in the air, but they didn't seem to notice, or they noticed and chalked it up to something too bizarre to ponder. It wouldn't have made sense for one person to create that smell by himself. Perhaps they didn't want to even think about it.
As they stood in the middle of our cramped room, I desperately hoped they would take a seat on Bill's bed before Bill noticed that it was not as neat as he had left it. To my relief, that is exactly what they did.
I was still far from out of the woods, however. How long would Bill's parents stay? How long could I expect Laurie to sit on my pile of dirty clothes under the bed? How long until she sneezed or had to clear her throat? But then, what would it matter? These were not her parents after all--thank God. Still, I felt so unbelievably awkward that I began to snort with laughter. I tried to hold a civil conversation, but I couldn't contain myself.
I felt a sudden urge to flee--to just get out of there. I don't know what I hoped to accomplish by leaving, and in fact, I don't really remember what happened for the next few minutes. I suppose I blanked it out, too embarrassed to admit to myself that this is what I did.
The next thing I remember, I was sitting in one of our floormate's rooms still dressed in a blanket, telling everyone where Laurie was and how she got there. Bill walked into the room a few minutes later to join in the revelry. He had figured it out, but apparently, his folks hadn't.
We were doubled over in cruel, delicious laughter when someone spotted Laurie coming down the hall. I shook my head and walked out of the room, not knowing what I would say but feeling obliged to at least show my face and accept whatever punishment I had coming.
Laurie was far too flustered to deal me any blows at that point. She had put on her bathing suit by now, and she scurried up the hall like she was leaving the scene of a crime. Crouching and nervous, she looked about two feet tall. She glanced at me for a split-second, tried to say something, then disappeared into a stairwell. I returned to our floormate's room and recounted the story for the rest of the day to everyone who stopped by.
By now, you may consider me sadistic, but I should mention a few mitigating factors. While Laurie could never stand being teased, she ribbed me constantly. She referred to me as "the dweeb" to our friends, and usually responded to my attempts at humor with a oafish, sarcastic laugh. Once, she hung my picture outside her door and wrote the word "dorko" next to it with a big arrow. I always knew they were terms of endearment, but sooner or later, these things come back to haunt a person.
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