By Robyn Brown
5:00 PM PDT, August 30, 2013
"I've waited this long for Mr. Right," my 38-year-old sister said as she leaned toward me over her albacore protein roll, the sushi restaurant buzzing with sake-soaked conversation. "I'm not going to settle for anything less than magic."
I knew the adrenaline rush she meant. In the wake of my divorce eight years ago, I'd fallen hard for a new boyfriend — a contemporary artist who was scruffy in a way I thought very Julian Schnabel but my friends considered merely dirty — and my life of petty arguments and lawyer phone calls suddenly seemed dusted with a dreamy shimmer of serendipity.
Our breakups — there were many of them — were epic, but still I persisted. There was a kind of magic to our relationship, I reasoned, and magic was not something a person just walked away from. The signs that our relationship was meant to be were everywhere: His name jumped out at me from street signs, during movie dialogue and in wisps of overheard conversations. One night after yet another falling out, I found myself driving past the dark windows of his Echo Park apartment. He'd been out, I discovered later, driving past mine.
Suitably, the end of the relationship was just as magical. He pulled up to a streetlight and found an old flame in the car idling alongside him. This fluke left him totally gob smacked. "What are the chances?" he asked me. "Driving down all of Melrose right next to each other! It has to be fate." By the end of the week, they were back together.
Months later, I met Peter. An old college pal of one of my closest friends, he was new to L.A. and needed showing around. If there were fireworks between us that night, neither of us noticed them. He was involved with someone, long-distance; I was still hung up on the artist.
Peter and I kept in scarce touch until the following year, when his long-distance relationship and my pining were things of the past. We planned a dinner to catch up. As I headed out on the one-hour drive to meet him, a large black spider crawled across my windshield. I thought surely it would be blown off as I accelerated to highway speeds, but the stubborn creature took refuge from the wind in the elbow of my side-view mirror and hung on until I got there. It was the evening Peter and I first kissed.
Accustomed to finding the magical meaning in everything, I scoured the Internet as soon as I got home for the significance of spiders. Some cultures believed arachnids to be signs of holiness and wholeness, others illusion and trickery. Had the spider been a good omen or a bad one? I mulled what I knew so far: Peter was kind, handsome and whip smart. But I wasn't obsessed with him to the point of distraction. My guts weren't knotted up. My pulse wasn't racing. Perhaps that meant some crucial spark was lacking between us. The attachment felt so unfamiliarly … easy.
Over the ensuing weeks, I second-, third- and fourth-guessed the relationship, until at last, I ended it. And there, in the swirling misery of the breakup, I found my missing spark. I'd finally conjured that dizzying, slightly nauseous ache I'd mistaken for love.
It was suddenly clear. What I'd previously seen as magic wasn't fate, it was fear. Uncertainty. Anxiety. They were what had cast a spell on me.
Peter was more forgiving than I deserved. When I came back to him asking for a second chance, he gave it to me.
Over our next four years together, I felt the sweet redundancy of a man texting he loves you for the 1,200th day in a row. Of sharing the laundry list of everyday experiences that is by definition absent from a love affair, but an essential part of real life. If I've made the relationship sound tepid or unromantic, I've utterly failed. On the contrary, what I'd once labeled magic now seemed like parlor games — Easy Tricks for Beginners.
I studied my sister over the rim of my sake cup. She was sweet and clever and gorgeous and deserved everything she was looking for, even if she did seem to keep looking for it in all the wrong, backward-baseball-capped places.
"Maybe," I told her, "You shouldn't be looking for magic. Maybe you ought to just focus on finding someone you love, and want, and trust."
She considered this a moment before seizing another piece of sushi between her chopsticks. "Maybe," she said. But then she was off and running, talking about finding the One, the man she was fated to be with.
I called Peter on my way out of the restaurant. Hearing his voice made something deep inside me light up.
I don't believe we were fated for each other. I don't believe the One exists for any of us. What Peter and I share wasn't predestined and handed down to us by the universe. We created this. We cultivated this, day by day — an alchemical transformation of ordinary life into gold.
An everyday magic.
Robyn Brown is a freelance writer and editor living in Los Angeles. She recently completed a TV pilot and romantic, young adult sci-fi novel.
L.A. Affairs chronicles romance and relationships. Past columns and submission guidelines are at latimes.com/laaffairs. If you have comments to share or a story to tell, write us at email@example.com.
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