L.A. Affairs

After highs and lows with a musician, love finally strikes a chord

Love finally strikes a chord for her musician friend, and now its all harmony

The first time we met, I was 22 and he was 25. We both moved to Los Angeles around the same time; I came here for grad school at UCLA and an internship at Los Angeles magazine, while he worked in film production.

Young and carefree, we danced at the Viper Room at midnight on a Monday but lost touch after a few dates. The second time we met, a few years later, we felt a spark, and since we were both single, we started hanging out again.

He invited me to see him play cover songs at Genghis Cohen on Fairfax Avenue. A few weeks later, he performed Phantom Planet's "California" at the Rainbow Room, giving a shout-out to a certain girl from Orange County.

He was kind, funny and charming. I knew I was in trouble.

We began spending more time together, enjoying poolside dinners at the Avalon Hotel, drinking vodka sodas at the Well and singing karaoke at the now-shuttered Amagi in Hollywood, but it didn't turn into a relationship.

I was ready for something more serious, but he wasn't.

Since I didn't want to live in dating limbo, I insisted that we stay apart from one another. But then I ran into him weeks later at a Zero 7 show at the Hollywood Bowl. We kissed and held hands. I was tormented.

Trying to do what was right, according to women's magazines and the advice of my girlfriends, I moved on with my life, dating other people but always secretly wondering if Tim was the one. He dated too, but not seriously, and he often called me first, whenever anything — good or bad — happened in his life.

One night, much like a scene from a movie, he called me from a work Christmas party, missing me, wanting to try to make it work. I said he was too late. I was with someone else, and we were in love.

That relationship eventually ended, but Tim and I still couldn't get our act together, although we remained friendly, celebrating birthdays and emailing once in a while.

I remember telling him one night, while we were having dinner downtown, that I just couldn't do it anymore; even being friends was too difficult because that tension was always there. I was certain that tension was going to ruin me.

One random Tuesday, many months after that conversation downtown, something changed.

"I have to talk to you," Tim said, calling from the 10 Freeway. "Are you home?"

I guessed that he had a career-related emergency, but I was hesitant to see him, as we always had trouble being platonic and I had recently started seeing someone I really liked.

I told him to meet me at La Scala in Brentwood at 6 p.m., when I knew the restaurant would be filled with families and not romantic candlelight.

After catching up a bit, he scooted closer to me, touching my hair and giving me butterflies in the process.

"I'm not your girlfriend," I said defensively. "You can't act like this."

"What if I want you to be?" he asked. "What if it only took me eight years to realize that you're the one?"

I was speechless. I wanted to get angry, to tell him he was too late again, that he couldn't expect me to just say yes after all these years. But it wasn't true.

I burst out crying — hugely uncharacteristic for me — in the red banquette we were sharing, because I couldn't believe that I, a cynical girl who was exhausted by dating in Los Angeles, was still eligible for a fairy tale ending.

As the concerned Italian waiter grabbed me an extra napkin to wipe my tears, I gave Tim his answer.

"OK, let's give it a try," I said.

Life was better together, and after officially dating for a few blissful years, we started talking about getting married. While I was taking a kimchi-making class with my mom in Orange County, Tim was asking my dad for his blessing.

Hours later, with chili powder still buried deep under my nails, he proposed to me in the garden at my parents' home in Newport Coast. It was the biggest surprise of my life, next to that night at La Scala.

Last year, 14 years after we first met, we bought our first home together in West L.A., where we have alfresco dinners and play boccie ball together in the backyard.

We have a studio out back too, where Tim keeps his drums and guitars (and surfboards and golf clubs). Sometimes, while I'm in my office writing on a Saturday afternoon, I can faintly hear him jamming with friends and I'm transported right back to those nights when he was onstage and I was in the audience, interested and hopeful.

Only now I know I'm definitely going home with him after the show.

Namkung is a writer who lives in Los Angeles.

L.A. Affairs chronicles dating and romance in contemporary Southern California. Past columns and submission guidelines are at www.latimes.com/laaffairs. If you have comments to share or a true story to tell, write us at home@latimes.com.

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