I first noticed Trish when I was a senior in high school. I was using the gymnasium as a shortcut to get across campus. As I was walking through the locker room, I was cut off by someone rushing to get to the showers. I came to a sudden stop directly in front of Trish, who was dressed in a cheerleader uniform, her dark-brown hair pulled back in a tight ponytail. She appeared to be of mixed heritage. She had an olive complexion, and her eyes were dark brown and warm. She was very pretty.
She said, “Hi.”
I said, “Hi,” back.
The world melted away for a brief moment as our eyes locked.
The next time I saw Trish was in the school’s quad during lunch. That’s when I noticed she had my same build, though she seemed to be in slightly better athletic shape. Her calves were well defined, and she had very toned arms—most likely a result of the cheerleading.
We never became friends in high school. We never even had a conversation. When we saw each other, we would smile and say hi, but that was it.
Then one day, about two years after high school, I went to the health club where I worked, and there she was: Trish was behind the reception counter with Diane, our day-shift receptionist, who was training her. Trish and I locked eyes, and I felt my heart give a big pump.
“Hi,” Trish said with a smile.
“Hi,” I smiled back as I walked by.
Diane heard my voice and looked up. “Oh good, Jenna, you’re here.” She waved me over. “Jenna, come meet our new evening-shift receptionist. Jenna, this is Trish. Trish, this is Jenna. Trish is going to work for us until she leaves for Southern California in the fall.”
Trish reached her hand over the counter, and I extended mine. We both smiled and shook hands.
“Hi, Jenna, I’m Trish,” she said.
My chest filled with warmth. “Hi, Trish, I’m Jenna,” I replied.
We were still shaking hands.
“And I’m Diane,” Diane added, reminding the two of us that she was still there. Our hands finally let go.
I put my stuff into a locker in the breakroom and then made my way to my sales office, all the while thinking about how good Trish looked. Not just good—she looked great.
The day felt longer than usual as I tried to stay focused on my work. Each time I went to the front counter to meet a customer, I tried my best to act professionally. Near the end of my shift, I sat in my office and tried making some sales calls. After Linda, the manager, made her final round of checking on her staff, I sat back in my chair and stared out the window.
“I remember you from high school,” Trish said, standing in my office doorway.
I was a little startled because I hadn’t realized she was standing there. “I remember you, too,” I said.
Trish looked at the empty chair in front of my desk, then she looked back at me and smiled.
“Have a seat,” I offered.
There was a moment of silence after she sat. We both smiled.
“You were a cheerleader, right?” I asked.
“No, I was on the Drill Team,” she said.
Her uniform had looked cheerleader-ish to me, but I probably wouldn’t have understood the difference between the two even if she’d tried to explain it to me. I didn’t inquire further.
“How come you never said hi to me in high school?” she asked.
“What? I always said hi to you,” I said, a little surprised by the accusation. “I always smiled and said hi,” I restated with certainty.
“You always smiled, but other than when we first met, you never said hi; you just smiled and gave me a head-nod.” She demonstrated the nod.
“No,” I said. “I don’t do head-nods.”
“Yes, you do,” she replied. “But, you did always smile.”
We were both smiling now, but I was a little confused because I couldn’t tell if she was telling the truth or just giving me a hard time.
“Was it a rude or creepy head-nod?” I asked.
“No, it was just your nonverbal way of saying hi.” She said it like she knew me, which caught me off guard. “Well, I should head home,” she said. “It was nice to meet you finally.”
“Yeah, you too.”
As she reached the doorway, she turned and asked, “Do you work tomorrow?”
“Yeah.” I thought I did. I hoped I did.
“I guess I’ll see you tomorrow then,” she said. As she left, she gave me a smile and a playful head-nod. All I could do was smile and feel my head return her head-nod. Oh God, I do nod.
I sat back in my chair and tried to remember what I had been doing in my office before Trish came in. Then I heard, “Do you like chicken piccata?” She was back in my doorway.
“Yeah, I love it,” I answered.
“Great, I’ll bring some extra tomorrow night; we can eat it together.”
“That sounds great.”
Trish smiled then left my office.
I waited in my office for another five minutes before I walked to the breakroom to collect my things. Marie, one of our cleaning ladies, was in there, along with Vinny, another salesperson. I took my time gathering my keys and jacket from my locker; then I went over to the sink to slowly washed my hands. I was waiting for Vinny to leave.
When Marie and I were finally alone, I said, “Marie, can I ask you a question?”
“Sure, sweetheart,” she replied. “What is it?”
“What’s a chicken piccata?”
The next day Trish brought dinner and we ate it together in my office. She was witty and easy to talk to. Being in sales meant having to be “on,” engaging in conversation with strangers, and all the while thinking about what I needed to say next to close the deal. By the end of the day, I usually felt spent. Talking with Trish was different; it was easy, and it gave me energy.
At the end of our shift, Trish and I were standing by the front counter. As she was about to leave, Vinny came over and offered to walk Trish to her car. Shit! No! I didn’t want him to walk her to her car—or anywhere.
Thankfully, Diane chimed in, “No, that’s okay, Vinny. Jenna already offered to walk Trish to her car.” After Vinny left, we both started walking. I quickly looked back at Diane, who gave me a wink. I mouthed “Thank you!” and then hurried to catch up with Trish.
When we reached Trish’s car, a very nice older-model Lexus, she opened the back door and placed her bags on the seat. She closed the door and then leaned back against her front door.
“Thanks for walking me to my car,” she said.
“You’re very welcome,” I replied, wishing the idea had been mine.
“See you tomorrow?” she asked.
“Absolutely,” I said, standing with my arms folded in front of me.
“Good.” She smiled and reached out and touched my forearm.
From then on, Trish and I were inseparable. I felt a really strong attraction for her; I knew she felt the same. But it wasn’t a sexual attraction.
Up to that point, I had never really been sexually attracted to anybody. The closest thing I had to a relationship was with my friend Mark in high school. Mark was a nice guy and fun to be with. I enjoyed our daytime adventures, rafting, kayaking, and bike riding. He preferred our evening adventures, the times when we were alone in the dark. Movies were his favorite. It wasn’t too long after the movie started that we were making out.
Kissing Mark was fine. He had full lips, smelled good, and had a nice body. The dry-humping felt okay, but still, I never let him get past second base. I just didn’t feel that all-consuming, uncontrolled passion for him that maybe I should have. Honestly, I felt like I could take it or leave it.
While other girls seemed to be falling madly in love with their boyfriends, the thought of joining a convent crossed my mind. The idea seemed endearing, and I saw it as a viable option. Communal living; women dining together, playing cards together, getting ready for bed together—that sounded wonderful. Too bad I wasn’t Catholic.
I tried not to think about it, but I knew I wasn’t being fair to Mark. He was a catch, and my friends often told me so. I just didn’t have those feelings for him. Maybe I was just a late bloomer, sexually speaking. But I didn’t feel that my life was missing or lacking anything. Mark was great, and we liked being together. What was wrong with that? Nothing, I thought.
But then one day, a girl named Sarah bumped into me. “He deserves better than you,” she said. Then she asked me, “Do you even like him?”
Up to this point, I thought of Sarah as being nice and friendly. But today she wasn’t nice or friendly. Apparently, the news that Mark had asked me to the prom and that I’d turned him down had hit the gossip mill. I wasn’t saying no to the idea of being with him; I was saying no to the idea of wearing a dress and dancing—not my idea of fun. But I knew I’d caused him some pain when I turned him down. The do-you-even-like-him comment stuck in my head.
I called Mark that evening. “Hey,” I started.
“Hey, I was just thinking of you,” Mark said in his usual upbeat tone. “What do you want to do this weekend?”
“Hey,” I said again, trying to restart the conversation. “I ran into Sarah today.”
There was a pause.
“And?” he asked.
“And I was thinking…I think she likes you.”
“Yeah, I know. She’s nice,” he replied.
“She’s more than nice,” I said. Even though Sarah had acted strangely toward me earlier in the day, I decided to take the high road. “She’s pretty; she’s smart—she seems like a good catch. Maybe you should ask her out,” I suggested.
“Are you breaking up with me?” he asked.
Oh shit! He thinks we’re dating.
I didn’t want him to settle for a halfhearted relationship with me. He deserved to be in a real relationship with someone who adored him.
“Mark, I want you to be happy. Happy-happy, not semi-kinda-sort-of happy. I love you, but I don’t think I can give you more.” I let the words sink in.
“I gotta go,” he said and then hung up.
The next week, Sarah dropped a note on my desk as she passed by. Uh-oh, this can’t be good, I thought. I slowly opened the note, which read: thank you! It was signed with a smiley face.
I knew Mark asked her to the prom; apparently, they started dating after that. Mark stopped giving me the silent treatment a week later. He was happy again.
No, my attraction to Trish wasn’t sexual—it was magnetic. I felt a strange energy throughout my body, on a completely different level than what I felt for Mark. It was the most intense attraction I’d ever felt for anyone.
We were best friends who spent all of our free time together. We played tennis, went jogging, and biked, but mostly, we just hung out. My favorite time was when we had sleepovers, which was happening with more and more frequency.
At the time, I was living with my best friend, Lori, whom I’d known since junior high. Lori was an assistant manager at the same gym, but at another location. She was the reason I’d gotten the sales job at my gym. She put in a good word, and all I had to do was not blow the interview.
Since Trish started to be around most of the time I was at the apartment, I asked Lori if she felt that Trish should pay some rent. Since Lori had just started dating someone, she suggested that we both could invite whomever we wanted, whenever we wanted, but that the obligation of the apartment would just be ours to share.
As it turned out, Lori spent most of her nights at her boyfriend’s house, which meant Trish and I spent most of our time at the apartment alone together—which we both preferred. We brought dinner home if we worked. We made dinner together if we were off that day. In the evenings, we played footsie on the couch. She stayed over most nights, and we usually talked in bed until we fell asleep.
I loved our conversations. We talked about work and school. How we both loved living in Sacramento because of its rivers, bikeways, and abundance of parks—it was an outdoor lover’s dream. We compared her life, growing up with siblings, to my life as an only child. We talked about our feelings about God and religion. Her family was Catholic and had a strict Sunday ritual of attending church. My family was non-denominational, and we often spoke about God at the dinner table. My parents taught me that God was kind and loving, and that a conversation with Him could be had anywhere, anytime. When Trish and I had dinner with my parents, she was amazed by how open and loving they were and how they instantly made her feel so welcome in the family.
Most of my conversations with Trish were fun, but sometimes I sensed an underlying sadness within her. From our talks, I knew she had a strong sense of family responsibility and felt the pressure of their expectations of her. Her parents had divorced back when we were in high school. After their divorce, her mom, brother, and sister moved back to Los Angeles, where her mom had family. Trish stayed in Sacramento to finish high school, but mostly to be with her dad, who was devastated by the breakup. Trish had planned to eventually transfer to USC, to be closer to her mom’s side of the family, once she felt that her dad was finally doing well enough on his own. She felt that now was a good time to move south; she thought he would probably start dating again if she did.
Trish and I made the most of the limited time we had together. Everything we did was lighthearted and usually involved some sort of physical contact. Even deciding what to watch on TV became a fun-natured wrestling match. The words “What do you want to watch?” usually started it. The person who grabbed the remote first had the upper hand; then it was up to the non-remote-bearer to wrestle, or tickle, the remote away from the remote-bearer.
On one particular evening, we had just settled onto the couch opposite each other when we both noticed that the remote was on the coffee table closest to me. Realizing that I had the advantage, I gave her a quick smile and asked, “What do you want to watch?” Then I quickly grabbed the remote.
“Oh no, you didn’t,” she said as she came flying over to my side of the couch.
Seeing her flying toward me, I quickly dove for the floor. Seeing my reaction, she adjusted her trajectory and grabbed my ankle, to keep me from getting very far. Still holding my leg, she joined me on the floor and tried to take the remote from me. I stretched out my hand to keep it out of her reach.
“Gimme,” she said.
“Never!” I responded. We were both laughing, which made it hard for her to take control of the situation.
“Okay, I’ll just have to tickle it from you,” she said. She stopped reaching for the remote and started to tickle me. I responded by tucking the remote into my chest and turning onto my belly. This move enabled her to throw her leg over my lower body to keep me still, which freed up both her hands to give me the double-tickle effect—which she knew would make me surrender the remote.
“Okay, okay,” I said, with tears streaming from my eyes.
“Say it,” she commanded.
“Never!” I responded as I tried to squirm away.
“Say it!” she said again.
“Okay, Uncle,” I conceded. Usually, the call of “Uncle” came with the relinquishment of the remote, but this time I held onto it.
“And?” she said, expecting the remote.
“Your uncle,” I said again, “…his name is Bob.” We both broke into laughter.
“Okay,” she said, playing along. “What about my Uncle Bob?”
“Even though he has seven children, you’re his favorite. And he’s going to leave everything in his will to you,” I said.
“That sounds about right,” she said.
“…as soon as he gets out of prison,” I added. We were both laughing.
“Why is he in prison?” she inquired as she tightened her hold on me.
“For embezzling. But he’ll be getting out soon for good behavior.”
“Then he’ll sign the will?” she asked as she relaxed her grip.
“Yes…unless the warden finds out that your uncle’s been sleeping with his wife,” I said.
She rolled on top of me to increase her dominance. I loved the feel of her weight on me.
I continued, “…but your uncle’s not sure he wants out of prison because Billy Bob, his cellmate, has been treating him reeeeal gooood.”
“So, why is he sleeping with the warden’s wife if he likes Billy Bob?” she asked.
“Because the warden’s nicer to the inmates when his home-life is good,” I explained. She burst into tearful laughter.
“Okay, okay,” she said. “You win this one.” She moved to the floor beside me and laid on her back. I turned over onto my back as well.
“I love how much you make me laugh,” she said and looked over at me.
“I love how much you laugh at what I say,” I said, looking over at her.
There was a pause.
“I love how you think I like burnt toast,” she said.
“It’s not burnt,” I responded, “it’s Cajun.”
Then she said, “I love how you walk around the gym talking to everyone with spinach stuck in your teeth.”
We both laughed.
“Umm, yeah,” I said, “except I haven’t eaten spinach for several years.”
“Yes, that’s how long you’ve had the spinach stuck there.”
“Oh, okay,” I laughed. “I’ll add brushing my teeth to my to-do list.” I paused, then said, “I love the way you glue toilet paper to the bottom of your shoe, then walk around the gym, waving like you’re a princess.”
She chuckled, “Not everyone can pull that off—it’s a gift.”
She turned on her side to face me. I did the same. We were both smiling and looking into each other’s eyes.
“I…love…,” she started.
“He is such a DICK!” Lori said as she came busting through the front door. “I can’t believe I let him treat me that way,” she continued as she headed for the kitchen.
I gave Trish a frowny face as we both sat up. I gestured toward the bedroom with my head; she nodded in agreement.
We got up off the floor and slowly headed toward the bedroom. But as we were passing the kitchen, we noticed Lori was pouring three glasses of wine as she continued ranting. Apparently, misery wanted company.
I wanted nothing more than to be in the bedroom with Trish, but I didn’t know how to explain why.
“What happened?” I asked Lori, as Trish and I sat on the barstools at the kitchen counter.
“He thinks he can just use me, then ignore me when it’s convenient for him,” Lori said, not necessarily talking to anyone in the room but herself.
“What a dick,” I said.
“Yes!” Lori looked over and pointed at me. “He is such a dick!”
Seeing Lori’s reaction to my comment, I thought of a new game that Trish and I could play. Under the counter so that Trish could see, I counted with my fingers—the score was 1-0. If we were a captive audience, we might as well have some fun. Trish gave me a look of confusion.
When Lori paused to take a breath, I added, “He doesn’t deserve you.”
“You’re damn right, he doesn’t,” Lori said to both of us.
I smiled; that was two for me. Trish nodded subtly to indicate she understood the game. When Lori paused again, Trish took advantage of the opportunity.
“Men,” Trish said sarcastically.
“I know, right?” responded Lori. Trish indicated a point for herself under the counter.
“They’re all assholes,” Trish continued.
“God, ain’t that the truth,” Lori responded. Trish held out a second finger, but she didn’t acknowledge my score. Was I missing something?
“You could do much better than him.”
“Thank you!” Lori responded sincerely. Trish held out a third finger under the counter and gave me a quick smile.
Oh shit! I suddenly realized what she was doing; she was loading the bases.
“You’re a beautiful woman, Lori. If I were your boyfriend, I’d be fucking you right now.”
Crack! It was a grand slam!
Lori loved the over-the-top compliment so much that she threw her hands up in the air and came racing around the kitchen counter to give Trish a long kissy-face hug. Without Lori seeing, I gave Trish the appropriate bow to her prowess that she deserved.
Then Lori’s phone rang; it was her boyfriend calling. Lori was in such a good mood now, she forgot she was angry with him.
“Hi sweetheart,” she said to her boyfriend while looking at Trish, her new secret crush. “I’m sorry, too. Are you alone? What are you doing?” She grabbed her keys and headed out the door. Before she left, she turned back and blew kisses to us. Then she was gone.
“Nice!” I told Trish. “Well played.”
“What can I say—I like sports,” Trish replied. “Ready for bed?”
As I brushed my teeth, I wished I had a time-machine to go back to the conversation that Trish and I were having before Lori came bursting into the apartment. We were having a moment—a special moment. But now there was no way to go back to it without it feeling awkward.
I climbed into bed and situated myself next to her. We always slept close together, and tonight was no different. We were spooning. I was the big spoon; she was the little.
“Can I get a back rub?” she asked.
“Absolutely,” I replied. I moved my upper body back a little and gently placed my left hand on her left shoulder; I starting massaging her with my right. My lower body stayed close to her.
We had started giving each other light back rubs only recently. Trish said it helped her sleep. I, on the other hand, found it difficult to sleep after giving or receiving one.
I worked my way across her shoulders, down to her lower back. My hand was moving to her side when she turned onto her back. I lightly touched her stomach, which reacted with a small quiver.
“Sorry. Did that tickle?” I asked as I removed my hand.
“No, it feels good,” she said. She reached for my hand and placed it back on her stomach.
Using my hand, and sometimes just my fingers, I lightly touched her. I felt her body tighten. My breathing became shallow. This was new territory for us.
I continued touching her, slowing to explore new areas. I moved my hand up and just barely touched the bottom and sides of her breasts. I moved my hand down and explored her hip area. I touched her left hip, then ran my index finger under the band of her panties to touch her right hip, before returning to caress her midsection again. Trish’s breathing had become shallow.
She turned on her side to face me. As she turned, she took my hand and placed it on her breast. Then she kissed me.
Our lovemaking was slow and deliberate, and we took our time exploring each other’s bodies. Every curve was kissed and caressed. Taking a shower together took twice as long.
We never said the words “I love you,” but I think we both felt it. Every look, every kiss, and every touch resonated love. But we knew that saying those three little words would make her leaving that much more unbearable.
The day she moved came too fast. I helped her pack the weekend before she left. It felt surreal. How could the best time of my life, with the best person I’d ever known, end like this? I took the day off from work on the day she left; then I took two more days off to sulk in bed.
For the first few months, we visited each other back and forth. Initially, it was exciting, but putting our lives on hold to see each other wasn’t the same as living our lives together. Besides, the traveling was expensive and time-consuming; not conducive for struggling students on a budget. Over time, our relationship was reduced to just conversations over the phone. Eventually, the strain of being apart was too much for both of us to bear. Our lives were taking us in different directions, and we both needed to move on.
I felt a pain in my chest, my body ached, and I didn’t have my usual energy. I longed for what I thought Trish and I could become. It was my first experience of feeling heartache, but it wouldn’t be my last.