It was getting late, that point in the night at Sushi Roku when the bussers are discreetly cleaning around you and servers are stapling receipts to sales reports.
My date and I were taking our last sips of sake and final bites of green tea mochi. In front of us, on the other side of the sushi bar's glass partition, two raw tuna slabs lay side by side: one yellowtail and one yellowfin. He pointed at them.
"Those tunas are like us: I am like the red and you are like the white, because we are so different," he said. "What could we possibly have in common?"
We could easily assume the answer is nothing, he said, but look closer. The white tuna had some pink coloring, and even a little red.
"Maybe there are more things we have in common," he said. "Maybe we would have more things we could share."
I was a cocktail waitress with a stalled writing career. He was a successful restaurateur who owned the building in which we were dining. I lived in a 9-by-9-foot apartment with a loft bed in New York, he in a 7,500-square-foot house in the Hollywood Hills. I was 29, he was 49. I struggled to see what we had in common.
We had met a month earlier on New Year's Eve in José Ignacio, Uruguay, a coastal getaway of untucked South American glamour. I was escaping the New York winter and a painful breakup. He owned a hotel there.
I wasn't looking for love, mostly because I didn't believe in it anymore. One of my recent Google searches had been, "What chemicals make us think we are in love?" Oxytocin, dopamine, vasopressin, serotonin — these became my enemies. If I could avoid them, I could avoid heartbreak too, right? But I liked him enough to kiss him spontaneously during a stroke-of-midnight fireworks show. Then, just like the fairy tale, I was to crawl back into my pumpkin, a 2 a.m. flight back to New York.
"Stay," he said.
"If you email me when you get home, I will come see you," he said. I thought he was a nut case, but I was kind of a nut case too. So when I got home, I typed: "Come to New York this week. I will pick you up on Wednesday. Wear a fedora and pea coat. It's cold here."
He came, and we had a great time. I took him to all my favorite restaurants. But we lived on opposite coasts, and I was determined to stay in New York. Where could this strange romance possibly go?
Two weeks later, he bought me a plane ticket to L.A., and our first dinner was there, at Sushi Roku on 3rd Street. Afterward, we went to the Roger Room for a nightcap, where two Fernet Brancas led him to reveal his theory on why there are so many lonely, single people:
"Everyone spends so many years searching for the perfect partner," he said. Their requirements included the perfect house, the perfect friends, the perfect kids, the perfect sex life. The result is letdown because nobody can meet expectations.
"I think we will go back to the old days when people just settled down with a good companion," he said. "You know how I know?"
"Because the best thing is that we can walk down that street right now. We don't even have to touch. Just knowing that we're together and enjoying every moment, that is what is perfect."
On my plane ride back to New York, I wrote him a short story about the tuna called "The Rare Pair." I hadn't written in months, but he inspired me.
Eight months later, I had reached executive platinum status on American Airlines. I had flown 100,000 miles to see him in Los Angeles and to travel to his native Buenos Aires.
All that was exciting, but one night at the Standard hotel's Boom Boom Room, where I worked, I had a panic attack. I felt like my independence was slipping away, and yet I feared the day that this journey too would end.
Then there was the time I choked out the words "I love you," a revelation that scared me so much it nearly caused another panic attack. Long distance had become a strain on the heart, but I wasn't ready to give up on New York. And my writing career still was going nowhere.
Through it all, he asked about and encouraged my writing all the time. And on one trip to see him, some connections I'd made in L.A. led to a dream job offer here to write about restaurants. Thrilled, I accepted it and moved in with him. We quickly became sushi fanatics, exploring the city through nigiri and sake. Asanebo in Studio City was my favorite; Sushi Park on Sunset Boulevard was second. We even went to Tokyo and visited the restaurant featured in the documentary "Jiro Dreams of Sushi."
About a year ago, on a typical Tuesday night, we had just eaten omakase at Sushi Sushi in Beverly Hills. At home, "The Lincoln Lawyer" was on TV when he handed me a small box.
"Will you marry me?" he asked.
Six months later, we married on Maui. I had just found out I was pregnant, which meant I was forbidden to eat sushi. Just like Jiro, I often dreamed of it, so after the baby arrived, our first night out was at a secret 10-seat sushi bar called Nozawa at Sugarfish Beverly Hills. When our sake cups touched in toast, I looked at my perfectly unperfect partner and realized that it really had all worked out.
Stacy Suaya is the restaurant and night life editor of Rundown on LA, and the son she had with husband, Adolfo Suaya, is now 7 weeks old.