L.A. Affairs

A couple's cross-town relationship impasse ends in a snap

L.A. Affairs: A Santa Monica man and an Echo Park woman try to find common ground

L.A. Affairs is our weekly column about the current dating scene in and around Los Angeles -- and finding romance in a wired world. If you've got a story to tell, we want to hear it. We pay $300 per published column. Past columns and submission guidelines are at latimes.com/laaffairs

We met in Mid-City, at a mutual friend's poker night, high up in a Park La Brea apartment tower. Terrible with names, I labeled him "that cute TV writer." The game broke up after a few months.

Years later, I ran into him on the Writers Guild of America picket line. I was working on the Universal lot as a Web developer, but even though my job had nothing to do with writing, I felt terrible having to cross the picket line every day. I decided the solution was to bring in solidarity doughnuts. So I donned a red T-shirt and showed up with two dozen glazed, and, to my pleasant surprise, I saw that cute TV writer again.

His name was Corey, and we picketed together for an hour before I had to report to work. When I fired up my computer, I saw a friend request from him, and I immediately "friended" him back.

As we flirted online, something dire became apparent.

Corey lived in Santa Monica, and I lived in Echo Park.

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Would this be a deal breaker? I decided to give him a chance, despite his Westside ZIP Code. He planned our first date: dinner at Malo in Silver Lake. My friend Jen marveled at this choice of location. "He must really like you to brave the 10 at rush hour," she said.

Jen was right: He did like me, and I liked him. As we sat on Malo's dim patio, drinking Medicina Latinas and eating potato tacos and chewy chips, I decided this guy was worth a trip west of the 405.

And that's how I found myself in a long-distance relationship with someone who lived across town.

I lived in a Craftsman fourplex that overlooked Echo Park Lake. I shared my one-bedroom apartment with a roommate and her deadbeat boyfriend, who both occupied a curtained-off section of the living room. Corey had an adorable bungalow near Santa Monica College all to himself. I found myself staying at his place more and more often.

So I lived in Echo Park, worked in Studio City and slept in Santa Monica. My life was a giant rhombus of endless traffic — the 101 to the 405 to the 10 to the 110 to the 101, repeat ad infinitum. Everything in our relationship had to be planned. There was no casual popping by after work. A round trip from my place to Corey's could easily take two hours. If I forgot something at home, it was left forgotten. More than once, I found myself waiting for Ross Dress for Less to open, so I could look for a sensible button-up because I forgot to pack a clean shirt for work.

For three years, we commuted back and forth. Podcasts helped me stay sane. But when I ran out of "This American Life" episodes and realized I had listened to 434 hours of Ira Glass, I thought maybe it was time to move in together.

Corey agreed. But when we started apartment hunting, we didn't know where to look. Corey liked the Westside's quiet, clean streets. I loved the electric bustle of Echo Park. We decided to leave it to fate.

This compromise made me nervous. Echo Park was the only home I knew in L.A. I was accustomed to walking to Chango in the morning, Masa for dinner and the Short Stop for drinks. I was afraid we'd move to a perfectly pleasant but perfectly boring neighborhood in some pocket of West L.A.

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Then fate intervened. One day, after a lunch of Mongolian barbecue at Gobi, I checked my phone to see 10 missed calls from Corey. While playing basketball, he planted his feet to take a jump shot and felt something snap in his heel. I rushed to St. John's hospital in Santa Monica, where Corey sat in the ER, an ice pack on his right foot. The doctor told me it was a complete rupture of his Achilles' tendon, and he wouldn't be able to walk, drive or do anything active for at least a month.

Or go look for apartments, I thought.

I wish I could say I felt guilty about taking advantage of his injury, but I'm all about making lemonade. If I was going to be responsible for taking care of Corey's every need — errands, driving, cooking, cleaning — I figured we should at least be doing it on the East Side.

I found us a two-bedroom townhouse in Angelino Heights with off-street parking and a private laundry room. We hired movers to bring Corey's stuff across town, and he supervised with crutches under each arm. That night, we looked out at our view of Dodger Stadium and watched the Friday night fireworks from our new balcony, and I knew we were finally home.

Laura Birek is a writer and Web developer.

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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