Men were men, as trees were trees. Our home was filled with women, six of us, Father a silent presence in the evenings. The neighborhood boys I played with were not so different; a little taller, sometimes rougher, but similar beings just the same. I gave them no thought beyond who would be available for a game of football, or lend me notes for the next exam. Then one day, I sat in the library with Mr. H., my tutor, as he read through my latest attempt at unraveling the mysteries of the ancients.
Some things creep upon us in a stealthy tide. Take sickness; there may be a twinge or two, a moment of uneasiness, a day of lassitude, and then suddenly it becomes apparent. Why, I don't feel very well! We search ourselves, and the hidden comes to the fore; a bit of a sore throat, maybe an ache or two, and suddenly we are in the throes of a violent spell.
I'd sat next to Mr. H. innumerable times, and yet on that day I was aware of him for the first time. My feline consciousness lazily opened its eyes and fixed on him. His sleeves were rolled up to the elbow, and his naked arm lay before me. Large, muscular, with a fine coating of hair, ending in a powerful hand with neatly trimmed nails. He cleared his throat and scratched a comment in the margin of my paper as I studied him more closely. A neatly trimmed beard, with here and there some peppered skin; I wondered what it would feel like, did he shave with a blade, if so what would it be like to watch. The contours of his face so different from a woman's, heavier, rougher, fuller, and the idea of touching it, just once, seemed to contain all of the elements of magic and mystery in the universe.
He shifted in his seat and I breathed him in, aftershave, fabric softener, the undefinable scent of warm male skin, then felt myself blushing furiously. Somehow I had eaten from the Tree Of Knowledge; this, then, was the excitement and shame that Eve had felt. I hugged it to myself, this secret. My awakening.
I doubt that Mr.H. ever knew, although he might have. He never gave any indication. I went out among men, grew used to them and their ways, and somehow drifted into, then out of, many relationships. You ask me why I never married, what I am waiting for, and how I will know when it's love. I am waiting for the revelation once again. Waiting for the moment when my world hinges on the touch of my hand to one man's face. It will dawn in the same way as each morning's realization: I am awake.