After coming out one year ago, it felt like I'd been on Tinder dates with half of queer L.A. So it was a treat to finally meet someone in person. We discovered that we both grew up in Orange County and worked at rival universities. I told her she looked like Karlie Kloss and tipsily asked her where we should go on our first date.
"Queer?" I responded. "Yeah."
"Oh, I just had no idea... Well... I've hooked up with women, and I'm attracted to women," she said trailing off, but something sticks.
On our third date, we trekked to see the "super bloom," the brilliant orange wildflower fields near Lake Elsinore. Families with professional photographers were shooting Christmas cards. Someone was selling water bottles out of a car. We found a patch of quiet punctuated by stray hikers.
Following our first two chatty outings, our status remained unclear — save for me planting a fast one on her cheek the week prior. It was as though I'd registered her hesitation. Instead of my usual headfirst tumble into relationships, I'd pumped the brakes.
So I started the tumble. I started by saying how I came out to my mom at Gracias Madre after work one day. I added how I came out to my dad while I was hungover and eating eggs.
She rambled a bit in response, telling me about how a friend of hers said she should date around while she had the chance...
"And I like you!" she blurted out. She continued rambling.
I told her about how I met a woman on a dating app, slept with her and never contacted her again. It was my first time with a woman.
"Please tell me if I go too fast," I said. "I'll let you know," she said.
On our fourth date, we went to the Comedy Store. She wore a flower crown in her blonde hair, looking ethereal. She suggested Saddle Ranch after the show and I gently steered us instead to Bar Marmont. We sat across from each other as guy after guy tried to hit on us (her). "Can't these guys tell we're into each other?" she laughed. I grabbed her hand across the table because it was so nice to hear her say it.
Eventually, we spilled out onto the sidewalk. There, we kissed for the first time. We kept kissing, holding each other for a while, before she gently kissed my neck like it was the first skin she'd ever tasted.
Spring blossomed, and we continued to see each other. There was dinner at Grand Central Market and drinks in Chinatown, where she told me that she has decided her sexuality is based on the person and not on gender. How a friend told her, "But you don't date women." I told her it doesn't matter because I know how she feels about me. "I'm glad we understand each other," she said.
She told me I smelled like sunshine. I told her she felt like a cool breeze and I thought of her every time spring came into my window. And every other time besides that.
We sat on her couch in our pajamas. I asked if it's important to her that I call her my girlfriend, and as I do, a few tears escape my eyes. She says she's not ready for the label. I play it off as best I can.
That night, in the darkness of her room, the thoughts still pound in my head. What are we doing? Does she even want to be with me? We drift off on opposite sides of the bed. But neither of us can really sleep on the nights I stay over. I have nightmares as I lay next to her. One of a tsunami, the other of a dystopian theme park we can escape if we just leave together.
If she was worried about coming out, she never said so, but it is as though my dreams were soaking up her static.
I remember my own coming out and how I felt like the world was ending with only me in it. How I had wished I had someone to tell me that they would be at the end with me. Maybe I hoped too much that I was that person for her.
She ended things on a Tuesday. She told me she needed something different and that maybe I would understand someday. I didn't let myself hear it. I let a day go by before inviting myself over.
I told her all the little ways I felt connected to her. Waking up at the same time as her alarm as though through muscle memory.
"I'm not ready to go there with you," she said bluntly.
I can't remember our last phone conversation. If I begged her to stay, or if my pride pushed her away. I have another dream about her now, not of tsunamis or dystopian futures, but of a time where she is glowing and happy. She tells me she's ready.
The author is a journalist and writer. You can find her on Instagram @rachelpanda
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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