There is something magical and almost untouchable about the glimmer and grime of Sunset Boulevard. It is this intangible that makes romances elusive and Los Angeles surreal. Our romance was kind of like that.
I was heading for a party in West Hollywood with trepidation. "Sunset and Alta Loma" sounded fancy. I'd ditched the wide-framed glasses for contacts and the tattered Converse for high heels. I'd undone the work bun and let my hair down. The drive up the hill allowed for a view of the city behind me. The city sparkled and the night was damp with the promises that only a summer's eve in Los Angeles can hold.
We met as soon as I walked in.
He was taller than most. He had a speckle in one of his light eyes. His most endearing quality was that he was unassuming and statuesque. We exchanged a few words: "I never eat when I drink" (as I reached for a vodka soda); "I went to USC" (as I inquired about his background). I found out he was almost five years my junior. As an "old 27," I joked that I could almost be his mother.
We parted ways the rest of the party. I made small talk with an oh-so-cliché aspiring actor while the tall stranger navigated the party. As is certain in Los Angeles, there were other girls, some prettier, some taller, some more tightly clad and more extreme, that likely gazed his way. On my way out, as he was talking to a girl in a sequined gold dress, he caught my glimpse. "Can I have your number?" he asked innocently. On the outs of a nine-year relationship, I gave it to him.
The next morning I received a text message: "I don't know about you, but I'm famished." We made plans to hang out, both shocked but happy to learn that we lived about 2½ miles apart on Sunset. (I near Sunset Junction, he near Sunset and Vista.) Runyon Canyon would soon be our favorite haunt.
I wonder to this day if the romance would've blossomed as easily without the Sunset Boulevard proximity, and the city swallowing us whole.
We met a week later. The sun was shining brightly that day. I remember walking up to the table where he sat outside at Franklin & Company. I had a sense but no certainty of what lay ahead. I was glowing with expectations that I couldn't define. I found out he was a writer and had published a book. He told me he was politically conservative, which shocked my sensibilities. But the electricity and mystery that shrouded us eclipsed any differences. Surprisingly, I even found his affinity for Ayn Rand unoffensive. In retrospect, it helps me make fun of us and spares me bereavement. My mother always said Ayn Rand was a juvenile and dystopic vision. Perhaps I should have paid more attention.
That night was the stuff dreams are made of. There were deep conversations in dim bars — the Woods on La Brea has never seen two people more enamored — that were followed by several hours of drinks on the roof of his apartment. We did not kiss that night, but we wanted to.
Fast-forward two dates later and it happened. We sat in another bar, this time on 3rd Street. Two or three drinks in, and the kiss happened. We closed down the bar. That night we went home together. He didn't want a relationship, and neither did I, but somehow it happened. We would lie for hours in his apartment, watching sitcoms based in New York but filmed a few miles away, with the sound of hovering helicopters interrupting the TV's streaming sound. Every time we had together was passionate, explorative and romantic. Like many in love, we were all that mattered. It was "us" and "everyone else."
Two years later, after sharing an apartment by the Grove, family vacations, exploring the future possibilities, and many, many arguments I will describe poetically as "deeply impassioned," it all ended just abruptly as it started.
I wanted commitment and he was too young to give it. It was earth-shattering.
One empty apartment later, my story of Los Angeles has changed. I no longer avoided the Churchill on 3rd Street. (In fact, I even enjoyed another unforgettable night there — cue black-and-white photo booths and several whiskey gingers.) A Silver Lake jaunt with a stop at Diablo, flaming margaritas at El Compadre, and even Asian tapas at Yatai are once again savory and ripe for new memories and men. I can eat my favorite foods, drink sake that finally tastes good, and drive the 101 overpass in Hollywood without wincing.
I know that my story is not the only one. It is a rite of passage that many Angelenos have endured. In a city brimming with creativity, youth of all ages and beauty in every form, we are all looking onward, for the next union of uncontaminated love in whatever form that may be. It's this juxtaposition of love and loss, success and failure, hot condensed fog set against the wide open Pacific, that keeps the city and its residents churning. And hopefully, among the beautiful mix of it all, we find what we are looking for.
A. Zane is an attorney and barre instructor in Los Angeles. She is on Instagram @theannazane
L.A. Affairs chronicles the current 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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