Gary Rinsem

Theresa Crush

by Gary Rinsem

A 1973 Crush
Written 1983
Amended Many Times

  • Muskrat Love

“There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.”
Jane Austen

Still as strong as in 1973, I often think of my only romantic crush. It makes me sad, but I've come to believe that Theresa died suddenly a long time ago.

Like many girls in my life, Theresa has a song. In normal conversation she made many references to "Muskrat Love." We heard it together at the dude shack and laughed at how dumb the song is, but I think it meant something to her. This is not her version of the song, but I don't dislike this version as much as I dislike the original. The Partridge Family is better than this

I wasn't naive about girls. I was far from virgin. I was still nervous and tounge tied and sweaty palmed around Theresa. It was a long time before I understood it.

For three months we spent every Saturday and Sunday morning together. My thoughts during the week were often of her and she made me happy like no other girl had. Still I had no clue, I only saw her as a friend to hang out with.

It started one weekend morning. As usual I was saddled and sitting in front of the dude shack, talking to the men who rented horses. I often waited there for other kids to ride with. The desert is lonely alone. The other option for partners was old ladies. I liked Jane, but classical music from her saddle horn mounted cassette player was too much. Give me wind, chirping birds and hooves on the ground.

Parents dropped their daughters at the dude shack and drove away. Girls always brought any friends who could get money to rent a horse. For them it was exciting. They'd explore the stable a couple hours before riding. For me it was routine, but a routine I enjoyed.

This morning the girl was Theresa and she brought four friends. I introduced myself as soon as the car drove away. We hung out for a couple hours while they took turns riding my horse around an arena. They got dude shack horses and I showed them everything of interest in the desert. Hanging out on the grass by the office, her father eventually came to take them home. It was a repeat of a nice morning I'd had before, once each with other groups of girls. I never thought of seeing them again.

I got a nice surprise when the same five girls showed up the following weekend. It was a replay day enjoyed by all of us. There were weekly repeats of the day until Theresa came early and without the other girls. A dude shack wrangler led Theresa's favorite horse Snowball to the hitching rail, while another brought saddle and tack from a truck out front. She was excited and her parents were worried. When the wranglers had gone she introduced me to her parents. Apparently they'd already had many earfuls about me.

I answered all the questions the wranglers couldn't be bothered with. Then while her parents watched, I quickly taught Theresa as many basics as possible. We got to the point of putting the saddle on Snowball, but Theresa was just too small to swing it up there. I showed her a trick taught to me by a girl named Noni. Holding it by the horn over your shoulder, situated just right resting the saddle on your back and standing in the proper spot, a short girl can swing a saddle high. It took several tries, but Theresa let out a yell when cinch and sturrup flew over the far side of Snowball.

With Snowball saddled, Theresa's father decided she was in good hands. Her mother thanked me and they were gone. Her parents "leased" Snowball from the stable for $10 a month. Catch is, they also had to pay the board bill of $40 a month. The dude string had too many horses and they're expensive to keep. This was a way to cut dude shack costs while adding a boarded horse to the stable. It was also a very nice gift for her parents to give her.

Two days a week we spent the morning together, sometimes with her friends. I never knew where she lived, maybe close maybe the far side of the valley. The last day with Snowball was sad and I never expected to see Theresa again. I gave up completely after a couple months of not showing on Saturday or Sunday mornings.

With Theresa gone I had strange feelings for her that wouldn't leave me. I was always happy, nervous and excited around her, but it was feelings I enjoyed without analyzing. Now the feelings weren't so happy. I missed her and it only got worse with time. This is my definition of a romantic crush.

That all took place in 1973. Theresa called me fourteen years later in 1987. She explained that she looked for me in every new phone book for years. Excited, this was the year she found me. She was married with two sons, 8 and 9 years old. We shared enough memories to both know we were talking to the right people. By then, I long understood the romantic crush I'd held for her. The call was a wonderful surprise letting me know she was having a happy life.

I was debating to tell or not tell her about my crush, when she invited me to lunch. The tone of the call changed instantly. I pointed out that she was married. Theresa laughed a bit and handed the phone to her husband. We talked briefly, he told me a couple anecdotes about Theresa which involved me. The short conversation ended with him saying "Please go to lunch with my wife."

Theresa picked me up for lunch soon after. She was more beautiful than I remembered and still looked like the girl I knew. There was a friendly hug on the porch of the mud hut followed by a short drive to, of all places, the restaurant in the Sheraton Hotel. I got a creepy feeling. I worked there a short time in high school. It was a terrible place to eat. Theresa was oddly evasive when I asked about her choice of restaurant. Being seated she insisted on a particular booth. It's where employees sat for employee meals when I worked there.

My creepy feeling got much worse. First thing after sitting down I told her I was uncomfortable with the situation, and explained why. After a long stare she said "Why didn't you talk to me?" I recall my mind racing, searching for the meaning of her question. There was none. I couldn't understand what the question referred to. She explained. We worked there at the same time. I served her dinner, but never acknowledged who she was. To me it seemed obvious that I didn't recognize her. To Theresa it was a sad part of her life. Hurt feelings kept her from considering the obvious explanation. It went on for so long that it was difficult to accept even when coming straight from me. We laughed when she finally realized how simple it was. I never recognized her.

I suspected there was more to the motive behind years of looking for me, and lunch, than a simple question about a perceived snubbing. I didn't wait long for confirmation of my suspicion. Theresa blurted out "I still have a crush on you." I immediately responded in kind. Disbelieving, we both began laughing. We agreed it was unlikely we could have created a life together, but it was sad that we missed whatever romance we could have had. After talking for hours we shared a goodbye hug on my front porch and she drove away.

Over the following ten years I heard from Theresa about once a year. Only phone calls and only to reassure that we were each doing well, and still shared feelings. One call she was obviously unhappy. Her mood and topics of conversation were dark and depressing. When worry for my only romantic crush got to me, I asked what was wrong. She'd separated from her husband with divorce in process. Her boys were both off to college and she was living alone and lonely in a small apartment. I explained I'd lost BB not long ago and my father died months before. Lunch was at Denny's by my house.

In the last twenty-three years I only heard from her for the first few years. It was often, sometimes several calls per month. We became close phone pals and I still miss hearing her voice.

Our contacts didn't taper off, they ended suddenly. I got worried and tried to find her months later, when her phone was disconnected. The manager of her apartments only knew she was gone, the apartment was found empty. Her neighbor didn't know her, but remembered a group clearing out her apartment.

I doubt she could be alive without calling me for so long. That doesn't stop the crush from missing her.