Following in the footsteps of This Guy

In a recent series of dates, This Guy keeps making his previous presence uncomfortably known

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I don't wait until my divorce is finalized before I start dating. You fall off the old horse, you get on a different one. Maybe it's a younger one. Maybe it's a crazier one. A funnier one. Maybe it's just like the last one. In any event, I find myself riding again, and I meet a lot of girls who have been with This Guy. He leaves big footprints, This Guy.

No. 1

At Red Lion, I buy this girl a drink, and she wants to tell me all about This Guy, but it's too soon. This Guy was a big part of her life. So big that she wonders if she can move on. This night is a test, she says. Then she orders a sausage plate from the waitress. After I buy another round, she's ready to talk. "So, do you like dogs?" she wants to know. She and This Guy own a dog together, and when she looks at the dog, she gets sad. She stopped walking the dog, and now it just lies around the backyard. "Shouldn't a dog make you happy?" she wonders.

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No. 2

This girl I meet online wants to meet downtown at Mas Malo. Dinner is just OK. The place is noisy, and she's reticent. Then, over flan, she tells me that she met This Guy at a bar two weeks after her husband died. Her husband was only 30, but he passed in his sleep like an old man. She needed a guy in her life, which is why she went to the bar and found This Guy. A week later, This Guy moved into her place. Her friends didn't care for This Guy. They warned her about This Guy. Behavior like dating a widow two weeks after her husband's death seemed questionable. Moving in a week after that? Pathological. This made her laugh. Who can say a person's happiness is pathological? Still, she had trouble sleeping and sat up in bed watching This Guy sleep. He slept on her dead husband's side. She waited for him to die, but he didn't. Later, there were times when she hoped he would die. There were times she thought she might help This Guy die.

No. 3

Late dinner in Silver Lake. The restaurants are all beginning to look the same. Dim lighting. Rustic steel panels on the walls. Handsome bearded waiters. This girl and I are making out in the corner booth. Later, she takes me back to her place in Echo Park. In her bedroom closet hangs a poster of birds of the world. She tells me the myna is her bird. She bites my bottom lip. I think she might never let go, but she does. This Guy hung around for 10 years, she tells me. After he was gone he was never really gone. He showed up when he wanted. This Guy owned her time. Because she spent her time waiting, she lost a lot of friendships. Because she was lonely, she drank too much. One day she saw This Guy crossing the street near her house. She tried to run him over but swerved away at the last second. This Guy got up and dusted himself off. He looked at her like he didn't recognize her. She thinks she'll never stop waiting for This Guy.

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No. 4

At the Starbucks near the Hustler headquarters, I find out that there are a lot of bills because of This Guy. He liked nice things. He liked to look like he had more money than he did. This Guy made her take out cash advances on her credit cards until she was overwhelmed by debt. The mailbox was full of unopened bills. She's looking for a guy to take care of her and help her with all of the debt. No offense, she says, but not a guy like you. Anyway, we agree to meet again, and when we do it's at her place. Turns out This Guy was also addicted to painkillers. Now she's high too, and she also caught This Guy's shopping addiction. She spends all of her money on stuff she doesn't need. She points at a collection of snow globes on the dresser. She tells me she's sleepy. In the morning, the sun drapes her like a cape. She opens her eyes when she feels me staring. In the night, a rope of her dark hair pulled loose, and I hold it up for her to see. She says she has the darkest hair in the kingdom. It must be worth something. But I wonder what it's worth.

Peters is an L.A.-based writer whose other work can be read at aaronpeters.com.

L.A. Affairs chronicles dating in and around Los Angeles. If you have comments or a true story to tell, write us at home@latimes.com.

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