Gary Rinsem

First Love
by Gary Rinsem

March 2015

"They asked me how I knew, my true love was true. I of course replied, something here inside cannot be denied."
The Platters

  • Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

“The mind, placed before any kind of difficulty, can find an ideal outlet in the absurd. Accommodation to the absurd readmits adults to the mysterious realm inhabited by children.”
Andre Breton

It took four weeks to acknowledge my first love. I wasn't denying it, I didn't know what it was. The initial feeling shocked me, similar to a shiver flowing through my body, a wave, starting low and rushing to my head. It was a new sensation and I liked it. It taught me that love at first sight is a real phenomenon.

I didn't understand the feeling of love, it was a brand new emotion. With nothing like it in my life for comparison, I walked toward the source forty feet away. Sitting on a cafeteria table pushed against the wall, legs crossed under her, hands in her lap with her head down and long blond hair hanging over her face, she'd just become my first true love. There is no explaining it. I knew nothing about her, not even her appearance.

Dazed as I approached I lost all perception of my surroundings. Gone were the sounds and commotion of a high school homecoming dance. Music and a couple hundred kids all faded into a surreal realm. My fixation on her was all consuming. I'd never before experienced anything like it.

My mind was unaware of what my body was doing when I bumped into her table. She hadn't noticed my approach. A hundred thoughts passed through my mind in the instant she looked up. That instant in time is a vivid memory which seems to be minutes long. Before I first saw her face I knew her name from a necklace which read "Tami." I never saw it again. A chain hung it around her neck, ends of the chain attached at opposite sides of the name. A poor design, it had no chance of hanging straight. At a forty five degree angle, in my thoughts she became forever "Tami at an angle." It's silly, but I've been unable to shake the angle thought from my mind. It's always reminded me of the instant I found love in my life.

As Tami looked up I was overwhelmed by the anger in her expression. It was clear she was mad about something. I was far too involved in my own oddity to think about her state of mind. I asked her name and told her mine. All the noise of a high school dance was canceled out by my mind focusing on her. I heard only her voice as we spoke. After a few moments of small talk my friend Greg walked over, telling me that Tami was on a date with another friend, Ted. It was instantly obvious what Tami had to be mad about. No girl should ever go out with Ted.

Greg informed that they'd been searching for her and Ted was waiting in the parking lot. Walking together across campus I was afraid I'd never see her again. I asked her last name and how it was spelled just before she got into the back seat of Ted's car. Of course she was irate, on a double date where the two girls were put in the back seat alone together. Makes me laugh now, but Ted's treatment of Tami that night immediately ended our friendship. I wanted nothing to do with him.

As the passenger door closed I said to Ted, "Take care of my girl." It slipped out, a foolish thing to say, but it was a sincere sentiment. Panicked, I looked at Tami for her reaction. It was OK, it was the first time I saw her smile. Ted drove away.

Worried I'd forget, I rushed home to write down her name. I found her in the phone book and added her number to the note, then put it in my wallet. Not knowing why, I passed by her house that night. I had to know more about her. Even with no clue what it was or how it was possible, I knew she was the source of something wonderful. I had to be certain I hadn't lost the girl responsible for this mystical sensation.

Four Saturdays later we had our first actual date. I didn't realize until long after that it was my first ever traditional 'date' with a girl. I'd spent a great deal of time with many girls, but not once a real date. Tami and I had talked on the phone, at school and at her house, enough to be more than comfortable with each other.

My car needed a new engine so I borrowed my mother's truck. I have absolutely no memory of how I entertained her that night, my memory of the date starts near the end when Tami said "I love you." Hearing those words from her for the first time, changed my life. In that instant I realized the unexplained emotion I'd felt for her, was love. It was the start of the first happy period in my world. It's been forty years and the love for that girl is still in me.

The devastation of losing love was far greater than the joy of finding it. Tami was lost to me three years later. My mind was too conflicted, too chaotic to hold onto her at nineteen. I didn't lack perspective, only focus. I understood I'd love her ALWAYS and often told her exactly that.

Three unbelievable years were followed by four of the darkest years as I struggled to accept the loss. It was Navy boot camp that did it. Two months of nothing for my mind to do but think. I didn't even have to decide for myself when to go to the bathroom. I thought only of the life that brought me to that point in time. With a clear perspective on my past I found my second true love the day I got out of boot camp.

Next is "Dear Tami"
An Ancient Love Letter