Here is the last installment of the story from my high school memoir about Theresa, my Saturday date during junior year and into the fall of my senior year. For the previous two episodes where she features, go here and here.
After one of the meetings Theresa and I attended, her mother took her arm and guided me by voice to the car. As she opened the front passenger door for her daughter, I went to open the one behind. My hand must have been too close to the front door because the next thing I knew, she’d slammed it on my thumb.
“Let me see that,” she demanded. I stopped squeezing my thumb and raised it toward her. “Bruised. You’ll lose the nail, but it doesn’t look broken.”
No expression of alarm, no apology.
I never found out the reasons for Theresa’s parents’ hostility. Clearly, they felt protective of their daughter’s virtue, as her father’s attempt to catch us in bed had revealed. But maybe they just didn’t like me. Except I sensed they wouldn’t have been happy about any boy being close to their daughter. Their conduct certainly didn’t surprise Theresa.
What little time Theresa and I spent in the company of others was with kids in the local Guild for the Visually Handicapped. I liked them, some of them a lot. Theresa pretty much lived in that world. But I didn’t want the common factor of blindness to determine my social life.
By now, I was continuing with her out of inertia, as I suspected she was with me. What we did was take physical pleasure and comfort from each other, although without (to use the euphemism) going all the way. Neither of us figured out how to obtain birth control without involving a family member or friend, which was unthinkable. With soft caresses, we passed on the love we needed to, though the need of neither of us found its true object.
After thirteen months, I was thinking about ending our relationship. But how? And where? A sighted guy could choose the time and place, have the painful talk, then get in his car and drive off. Breaking it off at my place would be too unfair to her. If I did it at hers, it would have to be one of the Saturdays when her parents went away to their country place. Otherwise, I was sure all their barely concealed antipathy would boil over. I’d need to have my own parents on standby and hope they’d arrive at just the right moment, something I could hardly count on.
I broached the subject one Saturday at her place, an hour before Mum was to drive me home. Her entire family was in the house, but Theresa and I were on our own in the lounge.
“Where do you think we go from here?” I asked.
At my side, she said, “I don’t know. I guess I haven’t given it much thought.”
It made sense. Was there really any need to think about the future, here and now?
She said, “Why do you ask? You want to break up?”
“Wondering, that’s all.”
On the phone a few days later, I said, “I guess I do believe we need to think about the future.”
“So, you want to end it.”
“Sorry, Theresa. I think it’s best.”
“Can you tell me why?”
I had no good reason. That we weren’t compatible? That was no answer. Anything more specific would lead me into a swamp of my own confusion and contradictions. So I told her, “I’m kind of interested in a girl I know in school.”
“What’s her name? Have you mentioned her to me?”
“She’s the one who asked you how to reject that guy, right?”
* * *
I knew Gretchen mainly from Group parties. One day when she and I had been talking at one of them, she’d told me about an occasional player in the Group named Joe who’d asked her to go out with him. Little about Joe had registered with me, but it didn’t mean I had nothing to say.
“He’s a nice guy,” I said.
“That’s the problem, he is nice. I don’t want to hurt him. But I think he could be needy.”
“I suspect you’re right. Listen,” I continued, “the kindest thing will be to tell him you’re not interested.”
“You think so?”
“Definitely. I know I’d want to know.” When a girl had stalled rather than tell me she wasn’t interested, it had only prolonged the agony.
A few days later, I wrote in the journal I kept off and on:
Gretchen called me tonight to tell me how it ended up. She was more ‘brutal’ than she intended. He caught her in the midst of making dinner (a stupid move). But she was firm and is now relieved.
* * *
In my desperation at Theresa’s side, I’d plucked Gretchen’s name out of thin air not because it was the real explanation for my changed feelings—I didn’t have one—but because it was one that would probably make sense to her. I winced, both at my dishonesty with Theresa and at the memory of what I’d said to Gretchen, which had begun to feel self-serving.
Although it was sad for both of us, I sensed she wasn’t crushed. It was as if we’d both been thinking the same thing, only I got there first. We worked it through after a few more phone calls.
Yet I minded a lot. Without a girl to take Theresa’s place, I sometimes felt I’d given up our relationship—my physical connection with a girl—for no good reason, until I thought of another twelve-hour Saturday with us trying to get excited about anything.
To read all my memoir excerpts to date, along with other recent posts, please go to the blog page of my website here.