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The big question: Did we have chemistry?

The big question: Did we have chemistry?
It caught me by surprise, and he noticed too. (Hanna Barczyk / For the Times)

I was sitting inside a low-key Hollywood bar, sipping a glass of Pinot, waiting for my Bumble date to show up. One of many “first dates” that month. It has been about two years since my last serious relationship. Two years is around the time when your body, mind and soul have been so starved of a real human connection that “finding a boyfriend” makes its way to the top of your to-do list, whether you want it to or not. At this point, I had experienced a number of mediocre first dates. A number that would make you think I should’ve given up on dating by now (thank you, Bumble). But after being single for two years in my 20s, what most people claim is my prime, I became surprisingly determined.

So there I was again, hoping that at the very least, this wouldn’t be a waste of a Friday night. At least I found free parking right outside the bar. A little Friday miracle. I thought to myself, “Is this actually going to work out?”

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Then I turned around, saw him, and immediately thought: “I sure hope it does.”

Before we knew it, it was last call. He walked me to my car and kissed me. It caught me by surprise, and he noticed too. But I swear my awkward reaction in this moment would’ve totally been considered charming if this was still 2010. I think what actually threw me off-guard was how innocent it was. I’d been single for so long, the definition of a kiss had just become the first sloppy step of the path to a hookup. I’ve forgotten that sometimes a kiss is just a kiss. And sometimes it’s meant to be sweet.

He texted me the next morning.

On our second date, we discussed the four things that are supposed to be off-limits when you first start dating someone — politics, religion, age and exes. That evening, we discussed all four. We talked about how neither of us had been in a relationship in a while. We talked about how although most of the Bumble dates we’d been on had been good and fine, there usually hadn’t been any desire for a second date. With us, though, there was a third, and a fourth. “I’ve never successfully taken a girlfriend to the observatory. I somehow never make it to the right location,” he told me. We laughed. “Maybe you’ll be the exception.”

I met his friends, a relationship milestone I hadn’t hit in a while. That same night, he asked me, “When do I get to meet yours?” I felt warm and secure for the first time in a while.

I loved this feeling.

I was telling a good friend of mine about our night together. She asked me a question that caught me by surprise: “Do you like him?”

“Have you not been listening to me at all?” I snapped.

“When you talk about this guy, you gush about how he texts you all the time, and asks you to hang out all the time. I’ve barely heard you gush about him. Does he make you laugh? What do you like about him besides the fact that he’s consistent? Do you like him?”

“Of course!” was my initial thought. He’s tall, attractive, has a cool job. We had lots of the same interests, and we liked spending time together. That is exactly what people look for. Right?

But, chemistry. That has always been my issue. There’s no way to actually calculate it. It is not tangible in anyway. Yet it is one of the most important aspects of a relationship. (How is that fair, universe?!).

So how are you supposed to know when it’s strong enough to pursue something further? How do you know when it’s strong enough to commit to someone for a while, or even — gasp! — for the rest of your life? Had his courtesy and charm distracted me from taking the time to actually figure out how I feel about him? What if this wasn’t actually a great connection, and it was just a good enough connection?

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Had his availability become so rare in flaky Los Angeles — a city where people can’t even commit to full-time jobs, let alone humans — that I was subconsciously clinging to it?

Don’t overthink this, I told myself.

But how do you really know if you have the right amount of chemistry? Do you ever know?

I texted him the next day asking if he’d see a show with me Wednesday evening. I got a reply 12 hours later:

“Sorry. Hectic Day. This week looks bad for me.”

My stomach dropped. I immediately asked, “Is everything OK?”

Forty-eight anxious hours later, I finally got a text answer.

“Hey. I’ve been having a lot of fun with you, but I don’t think I can see you anymore.”

I was wildly confused. I thought we both checked each other’s boxes! We made it to a second date! But …the observatory! What could’ve happened to flip that switch for him in such a short time? Was it because I told him my last Google search was “how to smoke crack”? It was research for a sketch. I asked him these questions and received a simple response that gave me more than I had expected.

“I met someone last weekend who really caught me by surprise.”

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you know.

The author is a production manager living in Los Angeles. She is on Instagram @christinebro.

L.A. Affairs chronicles the search for love 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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