We were lying in each other's arms, fantasizing about running away to a tropical destination where I would learn how to surf, when all of a sudden the moment was cut short by a jarring buzz.
Mrrrr… mrrrr… mrrrr...
His brand-new iPhone danced around on his desk, its timer happily humming, unaware of the precious moment that was being interrupted. Suddenly, we were no longer on our way to paradise. Our limbs were no longer intertwined. He got up, turned on the harsh overhead fluorescent lights, pulled on his scrubs, his socks, his watch, his sneakers, while I, slightly dazed, started looking for my underwear.
I knew they were there, somewhere.
Inside my doctor's office.
My engaged doctor's office.
If you're judging me, I wouldn't blame you. What we were doing was not just wrong, it was repugnant. I've been to enough therapy sessions in my life to understand why I was there. What I didn't understand was why he was there.
This man that I had developed a romance with had everything. He was attractive and intelligent. His fiancée was a glamorous, super-fit professional who whipped up homemade meals that she paired with the appropriate wines. She had a child that he clearly adored.
I was her antithesis — didn't cook, didn't want kids, couldn't keep a plant alive and ran only when chased or late.
Yet he and I shared a sense of humor and conversation flowed easily whether it was about Ebola or our mothers. From the moment we met I thought I had discovered a unicorn — perhaps even my unicorn. As we continued to get to know each other in 10-minute increments, I discovered that while he perhaps was a unicorn, he was one that belonged to another woman. On a call that lasted from one end of Sunset Boulevard to the other, we admitted that in another world, under other circumstances, things might have been different between us. Another month went by and we were knocking around furniture inside his Los Angeles office, the world melting into oblivion around us.
Since the demise of my marriage a year before, I had been looking for answers to what I considered life's greatest questions. Could a relationship have both passion and respect? Why had my own marriage fallen apart? Would I ever be able to trust another person? Was every person capable of cheating? And in a year and a half I found myself in situation after situation where the answer to the last question was a resounding, "Yes — everybody cheats."
It was, of course, a self-fulfilling prophecy. I presented myself as every unavailable man's metaphorical motorcycle to freedom; a woman who dedicated herself to nothing but work, travel and living in the moment. I was the female Jason Bourne to them: I had a passport and wasn't afraid to use it. I would spend hours telling them why partnering up with me was a bad idea, how my fridge contained nothing but Champagne and condiments and all I wanted was to feel.
For any man who felt anchored to a complex life he wanted a breather from, I was a walking, talking dream.
The truth was far less romantic.
I ran away from every realistic relationship opportunity because I was scared to death of not being enough for a lasting partner. I knew I couldn't live up to this image they were creating of the sexual, adventurous woman who spoke four languages fluently and would in turn make their lives exciting, so I created situations that I could easily escape. If these fantasy relationships worked out it was because the stars were aligned and we were meant to be together. But if they didn't choose me I would be prepared for the end, unlike in my marriage, where the end came with no warning. Right? Wrong. Having your heart mangled feels the same, whether you know it is coming or not.
Under the fluorescent glare, I saw the light. Was this now who I was? Someone who made love on a timer? Someone who earlier that night made a pit stop at his car, so that he could leave a toy for his stepchild to be in the backseat, before dinner. This wasn't adventurous, it was stupid.
As the elevator doors shut, there was a sense of closure.
I finally understood that we would never go to Hawaii. We would never even leave this zip code. It meant that I could stop pursuing him and the fantasy of our happily ever after. I would let him live his life with his fiancée.
The unicorn was theirs to make sense of now.
It was time to put the metaphorical motorcycle in permanent park.
The author is a freelance writer who divides her time between Los Angeles and Paris. She has written for Vanity Fair, NY Magazine and Variety. Her Twitter is @CaritaRizzo
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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