Meet My Non-Human Quarantine Crushes
The creatures that stole my heart — and possibly, my sanity?
Growing up, I was what you’d call boy-crazy. There seemed to be no limit to the number of crushes I could simultaneously manage; logistical issues of geography, age, availability, and physical existence mattered little, if at all. I had crushes on cartoon characters (Dale of Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers; Alvin of the Chipmunks). I had crushes on every Aquarius in my middle school, crushes on old photographs of my dad, crushes on boys who crushed on other boys. If you could sing or wear a sweater well, you know I had a crush on you. I had crushes on my brother’s friends, and crushes on my friends’ brothers. I also had AOL crushes, neighborhood crushes, and vacation crushes. I never left a Model Congress convention, Key Club meeting, or the mall without two new fantasy boyfriends in tow — at minimum.
I haven’t crushed so indiscriminately in… let’s call it a decade. A decade ago, I went through Some Stuff that made me realize I should probably understand a person’s character before spraying my hopes and dreams all over them. But then 2020 reared its head — what I like to call the Great Regression — and my younger self promptly remerged to take the wheel. For me, this manifested in eating an obnoxious array of cereals, getting pummeled (remotely) by my little sister in Mario Kart, and even :millennial shudder: a return to calling people on the phone.
What I haven’t managed to do is form a crush — at least, not on another human being. I just don’t have the mental or emotional bandwidth for that particular expenditure. Maybe someday… like when we have a vaccine, or when my jeans fit again. In the meantime, I’m content with quarantine crushes of the non-human persuasion. (Is a crush just whatever one pays affectionate and disproportionate attention to? Discuss. )
Meet Beau, a villager on my Animal Crossing island.
We met-cute on an abandoned island, where I convinced him to move to Quarantine. (Quarantine is the name of my island. I thought it was funny when I bought the game in March, but I guess every joke has its shelf-life.)
Upon his island arrival, Beau was intriguingly evasive — a core quality of any proper crush, in my estimation. He initially struck me as something of a lone wolf (but like, a deer): He rarely interacted with the other, more sociable villagers, opting instead to nap beneath a pear tree or admire the tranquil hot spring I’d installed by his house. But with time and a few interactions — small-talk, which evolved into gift-giving and letter-writing — I began to feel the crush was mutual.
Just to be sure, I screenshot some of our interactions and showed them to a few discerning friends for feedback (as one does). The response was conclusive: Beau was seemingly on a one-deer mission to turn Quarantine into Love Island.
I mean, the name says it all: Beau came into this world a boyfriend. He has a sweet, bashful nature and, though he doesn’t check all my traditional crush-boxes, he rocks a sweater like nobody’s business. Each AC villager has a catch phrase of choice they regularly deploy in conversation, but I find Beau’s— “saltlick” — to be particularly provocative.
AC villagers fall into one of eight archetypes, which I learned after noticing a vast majority of Quarantine residents were obsessed with muscle tees and benchpresses. On an island full of Jocks — an archetype that repels me, regardless of species — Beau was a breath of fresh air. His stoney bedroom eyes are a nod to his own archetype: Lazy. According to the Animal Crossing wiki, Lazy villagers “have a relaxed, easygoing, and little kiddish approach to living in the town. They are generally friendly and hospitable when interacting with the player and other villagers, they are fairly confident in themselves and their lifestyle.” Sounds right up my alley! (TBH, I’m finding all of this to be quite revealing.)
Think me crazed (who isn’t, these days?). But I do not worship alone at the altar of Beau.
No, meercachase. He cannot.
Meet Professor Willow:
It took me much Googling to figure out this dude’s name. I’m sure he reintroduced himself when I downloaded Pokemon Go again this summer but, given that I’ve lived the same day 255x this year, my brain no longer finds it necessary to remember most things.
A.k.a. Silver Daddy, Professor Willow is the quest-master of Pokemon Go. He pops in to give me research assignments and disappears until I make progress on them; our encounters, then, are solely determined by the amount of effort I put forth to meet his somewhat wild requests. (Walk 5km? Who do I look like, Richard Simmons?). It’s all very one-sided — and therefore, very crush.
When we talk, he’s always kinda hunched over, as if I’m a lost driver and he’s stooping down to give me directions (call me old fashioned, but, hot?). His kind of harried, impermanent posture screams, “Gotta go, babe,” before we’ve even exchanged a word.
Like Beau, Professor Willow is elusive and enjoys nature — but the similarities end there. While Beau is a prime candidate for cuffing season, Professor Willow is that dude who zips in and out of your life, always adventuring, always aspiring. You don’t see him frequently or intimately enough to get emotionally attached — and that’s okay. You respect that he’ll never choose you over his career; it’s motivating, even, to encounter someone so singularly possessed by their passions. Before Professor Willow, I could barely summon the motivation to put on shoes, much less follow my dreams.
Meet Orange Cat:
One night, in the midst of my evening ritual — watching Ryan Murphy shows and puffing on cheeb — I looked up at the window and saw a tiny face peering in, lookin’ like a feline Oliver Twist. His haunted features captivated me. I’ve been feeding him every day since; though not without protest from my closest confidants (my two house cats, Minou and Meadow). Rescues themselves, you’d think they’d be a bit more charitable — but I guess the grooming, indoor heating, and canned food have turned them bourgeoise.
I, myself, have always been drawn to strays — and enjoying them on their own terms. If all Orange Cat wants is food, water, and a bench to sleep on, that’s what Orange Cat will get. I’m not making it my mission to domesticate him (that would require us to get within six feet of each other, and Orange Cat is a devoted social distancer). And while I worry for his wellbeing — we do live in coyote territory — the cat foster system was pinched pre-pandemic, and it’s not particularly kind to cats of his age and disposition. Feeding him has at least kept him close to home — not his home, but a home nonetheless — and I’m doing what I can to meet his needs without undermining his autonomy. I mean, he’s already lost so much — the tip of his ear, a few inches of tail—what else does he have to lose but his freedom?
I did cross the line just once, when I bought him a fleece cat bed to keep him warm at night. Next morning, Orange Cat was napping on the bench where I’d left my gift; the bed was dirty, upside-down, and blocking access to my front door. But all has since been forgiven— guess he got hungry again — and a lesson reiterated: When it comes to our crushes, sometimes the most loving thing to do is allow them to be who they truly are.