By Monday morning the halls had filled up with students back from break. I felt different than I had two weeks earlier. I had changed a little bit each time I turned on Bob Dylan, lit up a joint, and went to work on my typewriter. I was also sure that I wouldn’t be able to look at Brian quite the same in class. I hadn’t seen him since New Year’s Eve but the memory of his kiss seemed to sneak upon me at strange times. Try as I might it appeared I just couldn’t get it out of my head. When Anne Marie found me leaving Miss Smith’s class and asked me with a smile, “How was your break?” it was the kiss that sprang to my mind.
“It was great. How was yours?” I asked politely.
“Same old same old, you know? So did anything interesting happen while you were here all by yourself?” She had that gleam in her eye that meant she knew something.
“What’s going on, Anne?” I questioned.
“I’ll get into it with you after school. If you don’t mind, I’ll meet you at your hang out but I have to go right now. Office work, you know?” Something was wrong. Had we been caught? Was it the end of Brian’s job? Looking at me she added quickly, “It’s not so bad, honey. I’ll see you later.”
Although I knew there was little chance that my professor might be in his room at lunchtime I ditched Julie and a burger to try to find him. As luck would have it he was reading Nietzsche at his desk when I walked in. “A little early for class, aren’t you?” He asked, his voice lacking in warmth or familiarity.
“Brian, what’s going on that Anne Marie might want to talk to me about?”
He looked up at me as if I were the village idiot. “A shopping trip mommy and daddy took her on? A party, perhaps? Maybe she’s having a sleep over.”
“Goddamn it, Brian, you know what I mean! She asked me if anything interesting happened during break and then she said she’d meet me today at Willie’s to talk about something. I’m going to hear it from her if I don’t hear it from you so you might as well say what it is!” I threw up my hands practically shouting at him.
Sighing, he put his book down and stood up moving to lean on the front of his desk. As far as intimidating stances go it was a good move. There I was attempting to confront this guy whom I all but adored. It had been easier to try when he was sitting down and stuck in a book. “Since Anne Marie is going to tell us all about it later there is no use getting into it now. Because you seem unnerved though I will tell you this. They can’t prove shit. The dean, the administrators, they have nothing concrete. All they have is second hand accounts and their own fucked up, overworked, imaginations. That means they cannot touch my job so just be calm, alright?”
“I want to know something. Whatever is going on now…is that what you had to take care of before New Year’s Eve? Is that the reason why you’ve been so remote?”
For a moment something dark, almost like a shadow, passed over his face. Then just like that it was gone. “No, what I had to take care of wasn’t business related. It was completely personal. Now go on and eat something before lunch is over. I’ll see you in class.”
I left like I was told but it wasn’t food that I sought out. Julie was on the lawn as usual waiting for me. When I told her about all that had happened her only reply was, “Liz, I swear to you that I had nothing to do with this one.” At that I giggled despite myself.
When I walked into my psychology class it seemed everyone was staring at me which made me wonder what the hell was going on. I knew Anne Marie well enough to know that whatever she had to tell me she wouldn’t have told anyone else. So just what was going on in the halls of Berkeley?
“Today, boys and girls, we are going to discuss something that is perhaps the most controversial, taboo, subject in the history of mankind. That’s right. Break out your Freudian ideas because for the next few weeks we are going to figure out and discuss any and all correlations between the human mind and sex.” It could have been my imagination but I could have sworn that Brian’s eyes stayed on mine from the beginning to the end of his opening statement. To know that I was going to have to spend weeks in a classroom discussing sex with him was enough to make me blush yet I got through most of it all right. Right up until the end I was just fine. But when he announced to the class that the extra credit assignment for the year was to keep a journal discussing sexual desires and impulses I nearly hit the floor.
“Do you think anyone is actually going to do it? The assignment I mean?” Anne Marie asked as we waited in line to get out the door. Julie had all but run out as soon as class ended.
“You would be surprised, Anne.” I replied, milling it over in my mind. How risky could it be?
“Hey you two, hold on a second.” Brian called just as we reached the door. Like patient children we stood waiting until everyone had fled out of the room. “You two want a ride to Willie’s?” He asked, grabbing his case.
I only shrugged as Anne nodded vigorously. The ride was blissfully short as I, the only person in the car left out of the loop, sat on pins and needles all the way to the bar. Once inside Brian actually made me wait until our beers were served before he let me in on the gist of what Anne had hinted at. “Ok, here’s the thing. Apparently we were not the only losers who spent Christmas in San Francisco or New Years Eve here and apparently we were not the only people that hung around the school throughout break. Everything from our first trip to Frisco down to the time I came to your room on Christmas Eve has been reported back to the dean. The thing is they have no proof, no complaint from you, and there isn’t a damned thing they can do. At least not yet.”
How stupid had I been to think the mess was over! “It’s Julie! It has to be!” I spat out angrily.
Clearing her throat, Anne said softly, “No, it’s not. That’s why I wanted to talk to both of you. When I heard you had been called into the Dean’s office again, Professor, I decided to look into things for you. I wanted to see if there was any way I could help. Julie is innocent this time unless she’s working with Miss Smith…”
“Miss Smith? As in Miss Pamela Smith, Liz’s journalism professor? What the hell does she have to do with this?” Brian asked, his temper showing itself in his voice.
“Well, everything that the dean knows came directly from her. Although she had talked about her plans to go to Colorado for Christmas she must have changed her mind. Do you remember seeing her around anywhere?”
“No. I would remember if I had seen Pam lurking around. If I had seen anyone from the university I would have remembered it and I don’t.” He replied, taking a sip of his beer.
Looking at her watch, Anne smiled and declared she had to go. Against Brian’s protest she insisted on walking back to the school and she promised to keep us up to date with any news.
Once she had gone I turned to Brian and asked the one question I couldn’t avoid. “Why would Miss Smith want to do something like this? I mean, she considers me one of her best students and any time your name is brought up she acts like the two of you are old pals so why would she try to ruin you like this?”
“Remember today in class when we were talking about some of the emotions associated with sex? What was the second most popular emotion listed?”
“Jealousy. Why?” I asked, confused.
“There you go, my dear. Our innocent Professor Smith knows one thing for sure. I haven’t met up with her to have a quick roll in the sheets since June. She speculates that I have to be fucking someone else and since you are the only woman she can prove I’m around she assumes we’re balling. Mystery solved, Nancy Drew.” Finished with his tale he ordered another beer while I sat trying to grasp what he had just told me.
“So where does this leave us? We can’t keep meeting can we? You are going to end up losing your job, Brian!”
“Like I told you before, they can’t do anything about it. We will still hang out and shoot the shit right on Stewart’s lawn if we want to. Now finish your beer and get to work, young lady.”
For the longest time we sat divided by piles of papers and empty beer bottles. By that time I had learned to concentrate despite the music and the poor lighting. I had gotten good at grading to Brian’s standards and it was rare that I had to ask questions. At times I think I knew the assignments better than he did. After two hours had passed he asked if I was hungry and he promptly ordered us supper. While we waited and after we cleared the table he looked at me with a cocky smile and asked, “So, the extra credit assignment…are you going to do it? It would be a great opportunity to explore that side of yourself and it would be a great chance to use your typewriter.”
Suddenly the nervous giggles I had thought myself cured of came back with a vengeance. “Are you serious, McVie? Is it even legal for you to give out an assignment like that? I’ll bet no one does it!”
“Hell, half the girls in that class are just dying to hop into bed with me. Do you think they would waste a golden opportunity to tell me? Not a chance! I want you to do it though. I think it would help you loosen up. If you had seen the way you blushed every time I said the word ‘sex’…this would be good for you . No one is going to read it but me and on that you have my word.” Taking my hand in his he said mirthfully, “Just smoke you a little grass before you pick up the pen and indulge me twice.” When he smiled I knew my fate was sealed. At least one person in my last period psych class would be turning in her extra credit assignment.
For the next three months everything seemed to be calm and on track. Despite growing ridicule Brian and I continued to meet after class. As the weather grew warmer and the days got longer we went out to parks and cafes to grade and read. Sometimes Julie would tag along. Most of the time she had better things to do. Both she and Anne Marie had boyfriends by March. Anne had snagged herself a beat poet while hanging out in Frisco while Julie got a clean cut member of the local fraternity house named Lonnie who was her total opposite. The two of them seemed really happy with their new relationships and I was thrilled for them. At nights I would smoke grass, try to write about sex, and drift off into an uneasy sleep. From time to time I would call up my parents, usually to ask for an increase in my allowance as I had learned that looking groovy did not come cheap. I also turned nineteen in March. All in all every day was pretty much the same but not in a monotonous sort of way. I was really and truly happy.
A week before spring break, 1965, while walking down a street shortly before dusk Brian finished the last of my notebooks. When he shut it we both just sort of stopped there on the sidewalk like we didn’t know what to say. I certainly didn’t. What reason did I have to see him now? “You know,” Brian began while holding the notebook up, “I hope you don’t think that because I’m through that means you can just leave me with all those damned papers to do on my own every day. The way I see it, you have a mountain of beer bottles and months full of dinners you owe me for. Helping me grade papers is the least you could do.”
Gratefully I laughed. He didn’t want me to go. Just knowing that was sweet enough. The Friday before break was the deadline for the extra credit assignment. Just as I suspected I was one of only four students, all female, that actually did it. When I handed Brian the stack of papers I had neatly bound and typed my hands were trembling. Would he realize it was all about him? The desire, the longing, the need? My love for him had become an ache over the past couple of months. Or perhaps the ache came from lust left unfulfilled…I wasn’t sure and in every page the uncertainty of my emotions played itself out. Maybe, in a way, I hoped he would figure out the things that I could not.
When only ten minutes of class remained Brian stood up to address everyone in the room. I could tell he looked a little nervous and that confused me. “All right, folks, I want to be the first to congratulate you on a very good year. You have all worked long and hard to follow me and you all stuck it out with me through some difficult stuff. I am eternally grateful for that. However, at the end of this school year it has been arranged for me to transfer to U.C.L.A. Everyone around here seemed to agree that my style of teaching would be more…tolerated there. Because there are only three weeks left of the school year I’m not sure if I will be here when you all come back from break. In case I’m not I wanted to let you all in on what’s going on. To those of you in this room who actually did the extra credit assignment I want to say that I think you all deserve an A this semester.” Class came to an end during Brian’s feeble, “Thank you all very much.” My heart dropped to my knees as my hand swam dangerously. This can’t be. That’s what I kept thinking. This is wrong. It simply has to be wrong! There seemed no way that he would just leave like that after all he had gone through to stay at Berkeley. How could he just look at his students who adored him and announce that he had given up?
I made sure that I was the last to stand from my seat. Only after everyone had gone did I go up to him. It occurred to me that with that cold look in his eyes he might well have been a stranger to me. “Brian, I need you to tell me that what you just said isn’t true. I want to hear that you were lying just then.” I pleaded with him.
“Oh it’s very true, Liz.” He replied cold and calculating.
I nodded my head as if to accept his words. “Well, if you can walk away so easily than it seems to me that all we fought for must be bullshit. If that’s the case than everything you have ever said both in and out of this room has been a bag of lies and I don’t have time for that so if you are still here after break ends I am dropping this class. I do not want to see you again. Goodbye, Professor.” With that, I walked out, having just blurted out my first farewell.
After dropping my things off at my room I took off walking to Willie’s. In my pocket I had a fifty-dollar bill and in my heart I had all the reason in the world to drink. Although I didn’t spend the whole amount in the bar I was incredibly drunk when, three hours after I arrived, I got up to go. If I had been asked where the great professor was once more I would have hit something. Instead I walked out and wondered over to the park where Brian and I had gone to hang out from time to time. Sitting against a tree I focused my attention only on the dark clouds in the sky and I prayed for the rain to come. I needed it. For once one of my requests was granted. I couldn’t recall seeing a storm like that since I came to California. It soaked me to the bone as I walked around in it for hours until I simply couldn’t take it anymore. With a deep breath and great resolve I headed back to my prison.
When I returned to the university most of the cars had cleared out of the parking lot and only one light remained lit in an office in the school. I hardly had to think about whose light it was and I was just drunk enough to march into the building, seek out the office I knew so well, and invite myself inside. I didn’t knock, I didn’t ask his permission; I just sat down across from him silently fuming. Looking at his desk I saw that he was reading the last few pages of my assignment. At that moment it felt like a violation.
“All right, what the hell is the matter with you?” Brian asked, finally looking up at me. He was clearly annoyed and I could hardly blame him. I was dripping in his favorite chair after all.
“What is the matter with me? Let me tell you, Brian!” I spat out his name like it was poison. “I am drunk. I am very drunk in fact and I am absolutely pissed off!”
“You’re pissed off? At what?” He asked.
“At what? Are you fucking serious! At you, you asshole! You have singled me out since the first day of class. How many evenings have we spent sitting around and shooting the shit? Goddamn it, you kissed me! You told me I was a great friend, that I was the only person around here who treated you right! Now you are going to walk away? You’re going over three hundred miles away to L.A. like you don’t give a damn about any of that. Now, I don’t think you love me. I am not totally naive. But I do think I gave you too much credit when I thought you would give some compassion over to a stupid girl who feels the way I feel for you!” I was livid and too close to tears but there was no stopping what I had started.
“And what way might that be, Miss Sanders?” He asked, mocking me with every breath.
“You arrogant son of a bitch! I love you! Since the first day I met you I have loved you. This isn't just some schoolgirl crush like you're used to. I think about you constantly! I am up all night wondering what we are really doing and what you really want from me. I have planned out this confession a thousand times but never like this. It’s just…” Completely exasperated by the whole scene I gave up on holding back the tears and I threw up my hands, saying softly, “I don’t know what I’ll do if I have to go every day of my life without seeing you or hearing your voice or taking from you just a piece of what you have to share. I’m not ready to give you up all together yet! I do not want to be left here alone with only what might have been! Do you get that, McVie?” Feeling like my cries were falling on deaf ears, I put my head in my hands and surrendered totally to weeping. Once that passed I stood up to go.
As I turned the doorknob I heard his voice, much kinder than it had been, plead with me, “Wait a damned minuet! Don’t go like this. Please just hold on. Sit…for a while.”
Turning around I asked simply, “Why should I, Brian?”
“If you are serious about what you said than I would like for you to sit down and give me a moment to think this all over, all right?” Immediately he was again the professor giving instructions to his stubborn pupil.
I obeyed him because I couldn’t walk away and wonder forever what he might have said. Ten minutes passed in absolute silence. With each second I grew more impatient, more outraged. “Will you say something, damn it!” I finally shouted at him, which immediately sparked his temper.
“And just what would you like me to say since you seem to have everything figured out, Miss Sanders? I am twenty-six years old and in all of those twenty-six years I have never had anyone tell me that they love me. Now that it’s happened the words are coming from a nineteen-year-old girl who is trying to figure out why she’s even here! So forgive me if I don’t know what to say! I am a little confused by all of this!”
His words and what they meant hit me hard. I didn’t want to ache for him after I had spent half the day despising him so I asked foolishly, “What about your family?”
“What?” He asked as if I had said something in Arabic.
“You said no one has ever told you they love you. What about your big family? What about your parents and all of your siblings? The way you described them…”
“It was all bullshit, Liz! Family? Fuck! I was left on the doorstep of a Catholic church before I was a week old! Remember what I told you on the first day of class? It is easy to forget your past and makeup a new one and you would be surprised by who has done it. I grew up in a goddamned Catholic orphanage. The closest thing to a mother I had was a paddle-welding nun and the man whose last name I carry was a child-molesting priest. Beatings, rapes, they were all I knew of love when I was growing up, Elizabeth. The only thing I didn’t walk away from when I turned sixteen was the belief in education. So what do you think of all that? Your Prince Charming is a monster. My own parents didn’t want me! Can you still look at me and say you love me? Do you still want to fight like hell to get me to stay?”
For the first time in my life I was crying because of another person’s pain. I didn’t care anymore if he got angry or if he tried to push me away. I knew if I just sat where I was I would lose him forever. I stood up and I moved to sit on the other side of the desk, making myself comfortable on the papers he had been reading when I came in. Only as I sat directly across from him did I see the glint of tears in his beautiful eyes. “How could you think that things in your past, things you had no control over, would make me cast you out, Bri?” I asked, wiping at my own tears.
“Don’t you dare pity me, Elizabeth! Don’t you dare give me your heart out of pity!” He replied in a tone so caught between anger and fear that it was not his own
“Damn it, haven’t you been listening to anything I’ve said? My heart is yours regardless!” Just then his tears began to fall and I couldn’t help but touch him any longer. Straddling him in his chair I let him lay his head against my chest and I cried a little more with every tear of his that hit my breast. Suddenly he looked up at me and just when I thought he would turn me away, he kissed me. I had never known a kiss could be like that! There seemed to be a fire in it that ignited my whole body at once. “Make love to me, Brian. Please, make love to me.” I whispered against his ear.
“Oh, Lizzy, you are so young. You don’t know that you want this…” He kissed me again, deeper this time, with even more fire than before. Then he asked in a hoarse whisper, “Have you ever…I mean…before? Don’t lie to me. I need to know…if you haven’t.”
“Why?”I asked, not really wanting to tell him I was a virgin.
“It would kill me to know I hurt you, Lizzy. I have to know the truth. Have you?”
“No.” I whispered softly.
“God help me! I should burn in hell for this!” He commented desperately.
Forcing him to look at me I said softly, “Hell is for those who commit evil deeds like priests who can’t keep their hands off of little boys and nuns who try to destroy a child’s spirit. It’s not for you. This isn’t wrong.”
Kissing me again he said weakly, “It shouldn’t be here. It shouldn’t be like this, your first time. It should be in a bed with candlelight and wine and roses, you know?”
“Bri, we have the rest of our lives for that. I need you now!”
A curious look came over him and in an instant he had me in his arms as he cleared off all that crowded his desk in one swipe. Laying me down softly, he went over to switch the lights off. No one was around to notice and frankly it was too late to care. He returned to me and slowly began to strip me of my wet attire. When he had me completely naked he trailed his lips over my lips and my neck and my breast until finally he was between my legs with his mouth performing a magic I had never imagined. When he thought I was ready he came back up to suck on my breasts while one of his fingers gently probed me. When I could take no more I begged him to enter me. “Are you sure? We can still stop.” He said one last time.
“Don’t stop. I need you…now!” The words were meant as a plea but they came out as a cry.
In an instant he stood naked in the moonlight. It was a sight more thrilling than I had ever imagined it would be. Kissing me, he gently tried to work himself into me while my body tensed up in pain. At one point I nearly cried out but, fearing he would stop if I did, I kept it inside. A tear slid down my cheek as he broke through me yet he was so gentle, so careful, that before long there was hardly any pain at all. Towards the end whenever he got faster, harder, and I thought I could take no more, a wave of pleasure would wash over me that would make me cry out, not in pain but in ecstasy. Then it was over. The most beautiful moment of my life had come to an end and in the face of that uncertainty I just wanted to weep.
Sitting beside of me Brian took me in his arms whispering softly, “Are you alright, baby?
“Alright? No I’m not. I’m wonderful! I never dreamed I could feel all of this but what the hell do I do now?”
“Well, first we get dressed and then I am going to go with you to your room and stay until you fall asleep.” He replied like he was sure I would have no objections.
“What? No, you can’t do that! If you are caught your career is over! The last time Dean Stuart was out of town but he’s still around here now and so is Miss Smith. I won’t let you do that!” I protested.
“Fine. You are coming with me to my place because I am not leaving you alone tonight.”
That settled it. In a flash we were dressed and driving to his house a few blocks over. His place was a mess but nothing had ever looked more like home to me. His bed was soft and warm and his arms were delicious. Just before I fell asleep he asked softly, “The paper you wrote for class…it was about me…your feelings for me…wasn’t it?”
“Yes.” I whispered.
“Then I know exactly what we are going to do.”
“Humm?” I asked, half sleeping.
“You are going to transfer to U.C.L.A. and we are going to make a new life down there.”
“Of course, baby.” I replied before surrendering to the sweetest sleep.