They tell you not to do so, and for good reason.
He told me he fell for me the second I walked out of the dressing room in that Norma Kamali dress. No, I wasn’t a client. I was a co-worker. I was just trying on the dress to see if it was worth it with my newly acquired employee discount. This was my first job in high-end retail in Los Angeles and I was going to explore all of its benefits.
I wore that dress the first time we went out — off the sales floor, that is. I did everything to make sure it wasn’t a date. I refused when he paid, my attempts floundering. I asked him about other girls he had been seeing. I tried not to get too tipsy from the free booze at the Dodgers game. I prayed that he wouldn’t kiss me when he got out of the car to let me off at my apartment.
I held the same hope every time we were together until, slowly, my grip began to lessen. On what would be the last platonic convening, he kissed me on the beach. I kissed him back, and I kissed him hard. I wish I could say the rest was history, but the rest was more like social studies of the insane.
I told him I had promised myself I wouldn’t get involved with anyone from work considering I was young, a female and already had a lot to prove. He explained that he was an extremely private person when it came to dating, and we both agreed we would keep our relationship, or whatever it was, a secret. Something only we needed to know about.
This didn’t mean we couldn’t step out in public together, just not in the direct West Hollywood parameters where we might arouse curiosity.
Beach picnics, movies in the South Bay, drive-by kisses in downtown before I went to class, and late-night appearances at my apartment that involved much more intimacy than booty calls quickly dwindled into a sort of resentment toward our stealthy situation.
Watching me get ready for work in the morning and making love as the alarm went off quickly turned into him running out before we could even fall asleep. At-work events and co-workers’ birthdays we usually managed to escape together, as I would get drunk and remind him to take me home later, to which he always obliged. However, our system started to crash when my jealous tendencies confronted his frustratingly nonchalant attitude.
There became one too many violent results, some breaking the physical boundaries and others residing in the screaming-drunken-phone-call category. Our once-innocent infatuation had turned into a ring of fire. Lined with detonators. Circling a swimming pool of broken glass. Every week we would get drinks and make up, and every week we would slither back into each other’s beds, only to wind up burned again. Maybe it was passion that drove it. Maybe it was the makeup sex. Whichever reason, we were always plotting ways to kill, yet neither of us wanted the other dead just yet.
Just before his birthday, and six months into our rocky love affair, we reunited at the beach again: a bonfire at Dockweiler where we may have even said the “L” word without really saying it, wanting to keep its sanctity away from our poison. In the morning, he was unusually cold and it was apparent in his absent goodbye kiss. I knew something was off, and maybe he regretted me all over again. I pushed away the thought, hoping that this time things might be different.
Two nights later, at his birthday party at Bar Marmont, I walked in to find him already drunk. I recognized another woman at the party as one of his good friends, and the two of us headed for the bar and ordered beers.
“Oh, you guys work together! Is that how you know each other?” she asked.
“You could say that,” I responded.
His drunken state was apparent now and I commented on it.
“Oh, God, he’s wasted,” I said to her. “There’s no turning back now.”
“Trust me, you should try dating him.”
My beer stopped at my lips and the floor instantly felt like it was disappearing from under me. Trust me, honey, I thought I had tried, and suddenly it was all starting to make sense.
She looked at me doe-eyed and dumb. The coke probably wasn’t helping her explanation.
I looked at him across the room with such fury that when he caught my eye, instantly, he knew.
I made a scene, revealed our once-sacred secret to our co-workers in my wake, and then I left. A piece of me probably is still stomped into the sidewalk on Sunset Boulevard, and I cried so hard as I walked to my car that I never cried about it again. He hadn’t cheated me. I had cheated myself.
Needless to say, this wasn’t the end of our story. Who knows, maybe there won’t ever be an end. If we didn’t work together, things might have been different. We might have left each other at the Chateau, never to speak or see each other again.
This, however, wasn’t an option.
They said don’t get involved with a co-worker, they never said don’t fall in love with a co-worker.
The author is a writer and stylist now living in New York City. Her work can be found at erikaanneflynn.com
L.A Affairs chronicles the dating scene in and around Los Angeles. If you have comments, or a true story to tell, email us at LAAffairs@latimes.com.
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