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That time I laid down the cash to pay for my own breakup dinner

That time I laid down the cash to pay for my own breakup dinner
I was feeling more confident, so I turned it up louder. (Daniel Zalkus / For the Times)

Sometimes, when I'm really anxious before a date — which is every time — I rap along to the Notorious B.I.G. in my car. It helps me forget how nervous I am around women. And although I had managed to start dating a girl I really liked, we were having difficulties. So I was listening to a lot of Biggie.

I was telling all this to my therapist in North Hollywood. I told her that I was trying to get better at dating, that I was trying to become more confident with women.

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My therapist listened patiently. Then she pointed out a pen and told me to try to pick it up.

So I reached out and picked up the pen. She raised her eyebrows meaningfully.

"Did you see that?" she asked. "You didn't try to pick up the pen. You just ... picked it up.” She nodded slowly with a profound silence.

Obviously, it was time for me to switch therapists.

The girl I needed help with, let’s call her E., had bangs, wore cardigans, and listened to Belle & Sebastian. After meeting at a mutual friend's birthday party at 1739 Public House in Los Feliz, we started dating. We ate burgers in Hollywood and talked about the Beatles and the "sky scientists" at Griffith Observatory. We played guitar together, loved the same books and got each other's jokes.

So why was it that as I was falling for her, she seemed to be growing more and more distant?

We had been dating casually for about a month, and I wanted her to be my girlfriend. But instead of getting closer, the opposite seemed to be happening. Her kisses were more like pecks, her text messages were getting shorter, and when I put my arm around her, I could feel her body stiffen.

Maybe I needed to be more romantic. I devised a plan. I would cook an extraordinary meal, chill the perfect bottle of wine, and as we watched the reflection of flickering candles in each other's eyes, it would be impossible not to proclaim our love.

But I felt nervous driving down Hyperion to pick up groceries at Trader Joe's. Why was E. acting so distant? Was I just being neurotic? I wished I hadn't fired my therapist. Well, if she couldn't help me, maybe Biggie could. I put on a favorite song and started rapping.

"It was all a dream, I used to read Word Up! magazine."

It worked. I was feeling more confident, so I turned it up louder. I rapped harder. I laid my seat back, bobbed my head to the beat and started saying things like, "Relax man, you a boss!"

The bass dropped on the next song and I really got into it. I put my whole body into the music, rapping louder than ever, and in my excitement I swerved into the car next to mine.

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We pulled over to the side of the road, and although it was a minor scrape— we were going slow and nobody was hurt — the guy in the other car was pissed. In a booming voice, he demanded to know what had happened.

It was my fault, but I was pumped up from Biggie, so I said, "Why don't you tell me."

He responded that it looked like I was dancing in my car and swerved into his lane.

I looked him in the eyes and with all the courage I could muster ... I called him sir and told him that that was exactly what had happened, and that I was so sorry.

We exchanged insurance and I went to the grocery store.

Back at home, I was putting the finishing touches on a rosemary chicken when E. showed up. She looked down at her shoes and said that she knew I wanted to cook, but that there was a pho place down the street she’d been dying to try. Did I mind if we went there instead?

I didn't like it, but just as I'm nervous about going on dates with women, I'm also nervous to ask if they're breaking up with me.

We went to Pho Cafe on Sunset. It doesn't have a sign out front, so everybody thinks they're in on a secret. E. fidgeted awkwardly throughout dinner and, finally, I asked her if something was wrong. She mumbled that yes, something was indeed wrong: She liked someone else.

"Oh," I muttered. "Well, that sucks."

The check came and she insisted on paying, but when she offered her credit card to the waiter, he told her that it was cash only. E. winced when she told me that she only had a card. So I laid down the cash to pay for my own breakup dinner.

Back in her car, we sat idling in front of my place. "You know that I really like you," I said.

"Well, we can still be friends," she offered.

But I didn't want to be her friend. I wanted to be her boyfriend, her lover, her man. I was about to tell her that sure, we can still be friends, but something stopped me.

A thought crept into my mind. What would Biggie do?

"No," I said, finally. "We can't be friends."

I got out of her car, and walked past my newly-dented car. I went inside, and put on my favorite Biggie song.

The author lives in Los Angeles. He's on Twitter @theogreenly and his website is theogreenly.com

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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