3 min

Snowdrops come out first

Displaying the timid white blossoms

Credit: Xtra West files

Art history had never been as Will imagined. The mental image-Pre-Raphaelite, he now knew-showed a gorgeous boy sipping tea, lounging amongst his peers and gazing at fuzzy paintings of water lilies.

But Professor Tomen despised the impressionists. On the first day of class, shaking his razor-nicked jowls, he called them “that herd of sissy-ass, bourgeois, no-talents,” and never mentioned Monet again. The student body had rustled with collective despair.

Will slumped through the term, drawing cartoons in his notebook at the auditorium’s rear. Despite the inexorable approach of exams, the students alternately slept or stared.

Chris, from upstairs, sat with Will through the term. They shrank into wooden chairs together, silent and equally bored.

Escaping from the auditorium one bright cold Friday, Will paused mid-sentence and licked his lip in preparation; he meant to veer from mundane chatter and into Chris’ personal life. That was new territory. How do you ask a straight man what he feels? How do you say: “What’s wrong? You’re not here.” It stank of armchair psychology, but had the advantage of vagueness.

“I’ve got my own shit to think about,” returned Chris.

“Oh yeah.” Will cleared his throat so as not to seem callous before continuing, “Did you find a size that fits you?”

A huff, a bitten lip. Chris said, “There’s a store for big girls.”

“Oh yeah,” Will said again, nodding and checking a hangnail. Just say it.

Just say it. Fuck fuck fuck. “Can I see them?”

“Like hell.”

Will rambled on in a pacifying flurry: “It might help, you know. Help yourself, um, settle.”

Amazingly, Chris paused at the exit door. “Alright” he said, turning toward the bathroom. “But just a look.”

The bolt on the stall door slid into its lock with a reassuring thud and Chris told Will to crouch on the toilet.

“You sound like an expert,” said Will, which Chris either didn’t understand or refused to acknowledge.

The blue polo shirt came out of Chris’ jeans with three rough tugs and he let his head fall toward his crotch in concentration. He fumbled with the top of four metal buttons. Will’s nostrils filled with the smell of leather, musk, a saddle. “Turn around.”

“What difference does it make?”

“It’s gay if you watch me unbutton.”

“I am gay.”

“This is about me, Will.”

“Can’t it be about me too?”

“No,” hissed Chris. He paused, then, a hand still covering himself. “Dude, if you tell anyone I’m wearing panties I’ll fucking kick your ass.”

Will’s mouth opened to object but wisely shut again. “I won’t,” he said, with unpracticed sincerity. “I would never do that, Chris.”

An instant more, and there it was. A faded white and lavender pattern. The bulge of Chris’ cock made a mound under the thin clutch of fabric. His balls half dangled over the bottom strip with a sprig of wiry hairs. Will stared at the taut cloth from his perch on the toilet and thought of the muffins his grandmother used to make, the way they stuck to the white paper muffin cups. He had never guessed that women’s panties were hot.

“They’re pretty.”

“Do they make me look like a pussy?” Chris cocked his head judiciously, twisting his hips for a side view.

Will shook his head slowly, transfixed. “Those are the butchest panties in the world.”

A skinny kid gawked openly at the two of them as they stepped out of the stall.

“Boo!” bellowed Chris, still doing up his fly, and the skinny kid fled the scene.

Once outside, the pressure between the two drifted off into the atmosphere and what had taken place became a movie they both had seen, or a painting, say.

“So you think they’re pretty?”

“I like the daisy pattern.”

Chris coughed as thanks-was that the lightest of blushes fanning up from his collar? Chris remained mute and looked into the sun, blinding himself. His back pack made a steady thumping noise on the side of his frame.

Daffodils had blown up all over the campus gardens, trim lines of bold yellow trumpet.

Will picked one from a bed, hazarding the disapproval of passing professors, and winged around to Chris with laughing wrinkles about his eyes. “Here,” he said. And Chris took the flower roughly, mumbling thanks, wondering where to put it.

Will fell into step beside him, happier than he’d been in a long time. Was it the thrill of seeing Chris’ package? Or only the thrill that accompanies new intimacy, new friendship? Was it only the season that effected this change?

“Daffodils are the first flower of spring,” chimed Will.

“No,” Chris mumbled under his breath. He pointed to a patch of timid white blossoms that nodded under a cherry tree. “Snowdrops come out first.