When the opportunity presented itself, I just stared. He didn’t love me, didn’t even lust after me, not like I lusted after him. He wanted another. He wanted Rose, all pretty and preppy and blonde, smiling all the time, so English, so Protestant, so Ontario.
Me? I was, yes, an Anglo in Quebec, raised by European Catholics, Catholic enough to have my sacraments accomplished and go to church. But I didn’t pray, unless assigned by a priest in confession, or in unison in church or during those times as a child hoping that the screaming between my parents would stop. When the drinking and fighting began, my sisters and I would hide under the kitchen table for protection and pray.
What was I thinking when Benoit invited me to the family dairy farm just north of Sherbrooke? I was thinking, yes, I would fuck him, I would make it happen, I had to make it happen.
It had been a while since I had made love. ‘Made love’ who says that anymore? Everybody said that back then, when they thought that was what they were doing, but really it was all about the coming, and it had been a while since a man had made me come. The last time was a pity fuck. I had called my ex-boyfriend, Evan, to come over to fix a rice paper lamp for me. The lamp was missing a cord and I wanted to set it up in the corner of the room of my apartment above a comfy chair so I could study or enjoy a book. Evan, who dumped me three months earlier during university midterms after a three-year relationship, must have felt a twinge of guilt as he agreed readily to come over and help. He was certainly handy and when the lamp was beautifully hung, I approached him, a desperate look on my face, telling him quite clearly that I had not been with anyone since him. He said he had, which made me feel too easily replaced.
“If we do this, it’s not like we’re back together, you know?” Yes, yes, I understood, and the orgasm I had didn’t really make me feel any better. I knew then it was over.
Things were a lot easier, six years earlier, when I was seventeen, when sex was not yet in the equation. I was so inexperienced that my first boyfriend, Steven, made me look up sex-related words in the dictionary. I mean, semen, what was semen? My mother told me that if I sat on a swing with a boy I would get pregnant, and that every man out there was ready to rape me, so I “best be careful.” My mother, who I always suspected was sexually abused, though I never confirmed it, would have been disgusted to know how much I would come to enjoy sex.
I actually met Evan before Steven. After high school, I entered CEGEP, a Quebec combo of grade 12 and first-year university. Why I put my hand on Evan’s leg in physics class, I don’t know. I guess I was just super excited to realize the guy sitting beside me was also from Chomedey and took the number 20 bus to the island of Montreal metro for the long ride to our destination, Dawson College. I mean, he was a funny guy, and we laughed and became lab partners and without him I would have failed physics. Chomedey is a suburb of Laval, where the middle-class Jews lived, on the other side of the boulevard from the French, English-speaking immigrant Catholics and a few Protestants. Yes, Evan was Jewish, the first Jew I really met if you don’t count my part-time job when I was ten, working as a coat check girl at bar mitzvahs and weddings in the Chomedey Synagogue. My family was not a rich one, and my mother picked up weekend work helping in the kitchen. I loved working in the synagogue. I would collect the yarmulkes from the bar mitzvah boys and the old men would sneak knishes to me, thinking I was hungry.
So that’s how it all started, me and Evan. We became buddies, him always wanting more, me knowing that, but not wanting him in that way, at least not yet. One night Evan drove me home from a downtown bar kind of drunk. He tried to kiss me, but I backed away. He got angry, so angry at my words of friendship that I heeded my mother’s warnings. He did deliver me home safely, and it was awkward between us for about a week. I think we both consciously decided to forget about what happened, but I knew then I had the power in this relationship.
As “just friends” we had a ton of fun together. He was the one who biked with me through the city streets of Montreal, the one who taught me how to cross-country ski, the one who made me laugh late at night after fights with Steven.
I was twenty when Steven and I broke up. It had been three years and I wasn’t sad. He was getting into cocaine, and I was falling out of love. Evan was still there for me. A week after the breakup, we went for a walk up Mount Royal to see the view of the city at night. The Mount Royal cross was large and illuminated. We held hands for the first time and stumbled along the paths in the dark. It did not take long before we fell amongst the trees, approaching each other’s bodies very slowly. This was foreign territory and we were both shy with each other. Evan had a look of awe on his face, as if he could not believe this was actually happening. We gave each other hand jobs, coming easily and quickly. Evan’s eyes never left mine. I, on the other hand, was focused on the cross.
So how did I meet Benoit? Benoit, a beautiful name for a beautiful man: tall, dark and handsome. We met informally at a language club, Anglos and Francophones getting together to learn each other’s language. A naïve hope, isn’t it? We could be so happy under this pretend language umbrella. As if, despite all the political tensions of the ’80s, we could all get along better by communicating. I was pathetic in French and clearly embarrassed by it. How could you grow up in Quebec and not speak French, people would ask me. Did you grow up in another province?
It was Rose who was supposed to go up to the dairy farm that weekend. “Mon nom est Rose, comme la fleur,” she giggled when introducing herself to him. Benoit was smitten.
“Je m’appelle Lily,” I said, annoyed that I had not thought of “comme la fleur.”
For some reason the three of us became our own little group. Benoit filled us in on his farm experience, describing in detail the farmhouse, barn and maple trees that surrounded the property. “Would we like to visit?” “Bien oui!” we both said. Benoit seemed pleased. Rose, “comme la fleur,” arranged the following weekend with him, but then for some last-minute reason, she couldn't make it and I was asked to come in her place.
So when Benoit’s mother greeted us at the door, welcoming Rose, I was a bit confused. He had clearly forgotten to tell his mother about this floral substitution. Nervous and shy, I said “Bonsoir, je m’appelle Lily.”
His mother shot questioning looks at her son.
“Maman,” he said. “Rose ne vient pas, elle est avec sa famille. C’est Lily.”
Her eyes quickly fell upon mine, a bit of disappointment in them; clearly he must have discussed his feelings about Rose with his mother. I could see it in the glances between them.
We moved to the kitchen, the smell of food awakening me. There were Virgin Marys and Baby Jesuses everywhere. A crucifix dominated the room. I kept thinking how protected I was from vampires in this place, but decided not to mention my Dracula obsession with Maman in the room. When the food was served, a supper of ham and maple syrup, potatoes and vegetables, I ate mindlessly. I stared at the Mary's, contemplating the sin I wanted to commit. You’re a good girl, one of the Marys said to me under her watchful eyes.
That night Benoit and I went for a walk around the farm to see all the maple trees. They were tapped for syrup, and this being March, the syrup was dripping into buckets underneath the trees. We spoke in both French and English, laughing at our inability to clearly communicate. We played a child’s game of tag around the trees, and when he tagged me, I stopped, breathless. He pulled me close. When he kissed me, I wasn’t really surprised. The look in my eyes had no language barrier; it was quite clear what I wanted. His mouth was cold but his tongue was warm, wet and probing. I stopped caring that I wasn’t “la fleur” and enjoyed his kisses. Benoit was gentle and kind and in his arms I felt safe. My buried feelings of arousal emerged.
It started to get dark so we re-entered the house. Maman had put out tartelettes au sucre with maple syrup on the table for us, along with a jug of raw milk. I watched him eat, being more aware now of how his mouth moved. We hardly spoke, as the moment of passion seemed to fade with the prospect of farm chores looming over us for the next day. After his third glass of milk he said it was time for bed and that he would be waking me up at four in the morning to milk the cows.
“D’accord, le matin,” I said.
My bedroom was one that a couple of his sisters had shared. Like many French Catholics, Benoit had lots of brothers and sisters. Since he was one of the youngest, most of his siblings had married and moved out. His goal was eventually to take over the family farm and the next morning he would show me how qualified he was for that task.
My room had two more Virgins. They formed the bases of lamps located on small tables on each side of the bed. When I turned one of the lights on to read, I thought, “Am I turning you on, Mary?” But I could not make peace with my body or mind that night. My body ached for Benoit, but he didn’t sneak into my room as I had hoped. He was a good farmer first. Well, you cows won round one, but there is always the morning.
I tossed and turned for what seemed like forever, my thoughts turning to Evan and the breakup. What did he say to me that night of our breakup? Was it that I wasn’t good enough, was I not smart enough? He wanted more, more than I could offer. He was often critical of me.
I had moved to Toronto during our courtship and we endured a long-distance relationship for eight months. When I wrote letters to him, he would return them with edits. I mean, who does that and why? Did he think he deserved a girlfriend who was a better speller? Whatever his motivation, it didn’t turn me into a scholar; it made me doubt myself even more. My parents had made certain that I lacked in self-confidence and self-esteem. Their method of encouraging me to do better in school was telling me I was dumb. Now, one of the few champions who believed in me, who fought for me, was also rejecting me. I just wasn’t good enough for Evan any more.
At four in the morning, I was finally in a deep sleep when a hand aroused me awake. Benoit sat on my bed, dressed for the barn, smiling his beautiful smile. Did I sleep well, he asked, handing me a pair of long johns and a shirt. He bent down and kissed me lightly on the lips. Before I could say much of anything, he said he would see me in the barn. I put on the instructed clothing and proceeded to the barn. When he saw me, he threw me a pair of smelly overalls and began to show me how proper milking was done.
Blurry-eyed and too tired to grasp the French language so early in the morning, I summarized milking as getting the cow excited enough for her milk to come down. And as I watched his large hands work on the cow’s tit, I fantasized about how this weekend could become my very own Harlequin Romance and what those large hands could be doing to my body.
With milking done, it was now time for breakfast: coffee and cream, oatmeal with raw milk, bacon and lots of maple syrup. His mother would be off to morning mass soon, so we would be alone. I showered first, and waited in my room. The Marys were eyeing me up and down. My body was desperate; I felt alone and completely unsatisfied. I hoped the high probability of sex between us would put Evan out of my head for good. I heard Maman leave and the shower turn on again. I waited.
Soon there was a knock on the door. Benoit entered in just a towel, wrapped around his waist, bulge in place. He only said one thing to me. “I want your vagin.” He wanted my vagina? Benoit was a precise man, no beating around the bush for him. He moved closer to me, the towel dropping onto the floor.
I looked at his penis. It was huge. I was too dumbstruck to figure out what to say or do with it. He repeated again, this time in French, “je veux ton vagin.” I had only been with two men, both with what I understood to be fairly standard circumcised penises. Benoit’s uncut penis stood at attention. It seemed to just come at me.
“Non, non, your penis is too big,” I said, my eyes fixed on the many inches in front of me. “I mean, maybe we should just have oral sex.”
This seemed to confuse Benoit and he only repeated: “Lily, I want your vagin.”
I concluded that this was a man who fucked only one way. He was practical in a way only a farmer could be. Just like when he inseminated his cows, he had the same routine to achieve the results he wanted. The Marys started in on me, he wants your vagina, he wants your vagina, he wants your vagina. It was just too much to handle so I stopped it all by saying, “Your penis is just too big, it won’t fit in my vagin.”
A look of understanding came upon his face. He picked up the towel and wrapped it around himself and sat down next to me on the bed. He was a beautiful man. I touched his face, saying “You really don’t want me; you want Rose, don’t you?”
We both knew the answer.
Benoit did end up with Rose, our brief friendship fading as I left the language group and stopped going to the communal suppers. I’d see him sometimes on the street and we’d share an uncomfortable glance before turning away.
The Marys saved me that weekend, helping me realize I needed to be more resilient. With time I would learn more about myself and the kind of man I was meant to be with. There would be more encounters with men, some awkward and some loving. But as each new man would display his manhood to me like a preening peacock, I would always think, yeah, yeah, I’ve seen bigger.
Rosemary Szabadka is an emerging writer and public health dietitian in Winnipeg. Rosemary’s love of storytelling, and desire to make people laugh, has led her to begin writing about her spirited sexual adventures, and mishaps, during her time as a student.
She is older and wiser, and still has much to tell her growing audience.