Our love affair is based on animal magnetism
The rabbits brought us together.
I was at a delicate crossroads in my life. I’d moved to Los Angeles six years earlier with dreams of making movies, and accomplished a few things, even won some awards. I had “promise.” But far from enjoying my upward climb, I’d instead withdrawn to an isolated Echo Park studio with no amenities and chickens next door. The reason: man troubles. Of course.
The truth is, I liked the chickens. The sound of those earnest roosters crowing every morning soothed my battered heart. As a kid who grew up on a farm, the youngest of a large extended family with its share of conflict, I often sought comfort in fur or feathers. To this day, whenever things in my life go to hell, the sight of a squirrel scampering along a power line over a busy street, or a flock of pigeons executing an aerial ballet before alighting on a billboard… these natural wonders can cheer me, affirming that life goes on.
Back to those man troubles, which had dogged me (pun intended) my entire adult life. According to a shrink, they had to do with intimacy (don’t everyone’s?), meaning I gravitated towards guy who had a problem with it. Like the wunderkind I’d followed out here from my hometown, who’d had quick success selling a comedy script to Universal, then announced he wouldn’t be “settling down” until he became famous enough for Mick Jagger to sing at his wedding. Just as irksome, he loved to declare the superiority of dogs over cats, and insisted I choose between them.
The married guy I fell for next claimed to like animals very much – preferably grilled. I chuckled good naturedly the first half dozen times he said it.
By far the most toxic guy I gravitated toward was the tall, brooding Harvard grad who’d chucked a New York legal career to become the next Oliver Stone. He was also manic-depressive and a pothead, but for some reason I found him so alluring I chose to ignore the rank smell of stale marijuana smoke that permeated his dumpy one-bedroom. We had our share of low moments, but a high point was when we took in two stray kittens that lived behind his building. Caring for those little creatures gave our relationship a second wind. We made a plan to move in together. Except when it came time to actually pack up and move, Harvard had a major meltdown when our female cat used his closet for a bathroom and he threatened to throw her off the balcony.
I retreated to the Echo Park studio, cats in tow.
A few weeks later, the phone rang. The stranger on the other end of the line cheerfully explained he was a college classmate of my cousin. His tone was so upbeat, for a second I thought he was going to ask me out on a blind date. Instead, he told me he’d heard I was giving up my apartment to move in with my boyfriend. He was newly divorced and looking for a place to land. Could this be serendipity?
I coldly said my plans had changed and hung up. Undaunted, he eventually found another apartment in the building and came by one day to introduce himself.
Which brings me to the rabbits. Specifically, the large white rabbit I’d spotted from my kitchen window not long after parting ways with Harvard. No, I wasn’t channeling Alice. This white rabbit was in a cage, nestled between broken flowerpots and rusted hubcaps. Moments later I was kneeling next to it, peering in for a closer look. He was a gorgeous thing – as soft and spotless as a brand new toy. But he was real, and looked back at me with big blue eyes, his pink nose twitching just as they do in storybooks.
Rescued by the building’s caretaker from an indifferent nephew, the bunny was mine by day’s end. By the weekend I’d purchased a female companion for him – the last Easter bunny in a pet store – as well as an elaborate habitat that took up my entire patio. Only then did I find out how much rabbits eat – a head of lettuce a day and enough alfalfa to feed a pony. I was well beyond cat lady by now. I was Farmer Jane in downtown Los Angeles.
You’d think Divorced Guy would have taken one look around that barnyard and fled. He had allergies, for heaven’s sake. Instead, he took a Claritin and hung out. He played with the animals while we got to know each other, smiling at me through watery eyes. We became friends first. Then lovers. One day, my male cat paid him a visit in his apartment and bit him. Not hard – just hard enough to let Divorced Guy know where he stood in the pecking order. But the real test came when I had to fly east and asked Divorced Guy to pet sit. By the time I came home, he was one of the gang.
Divorced Guy later confessed that he’d assessed the situation early. He could tell right away I wasn’t going to get rid of the animals, and while that might be bad news for his sinuses, it seemed to bode well for other things.
He was right. We’ve been married for sixteen years. Along the way, we’ve built up quite a menagerie, adding two more cats, some fish and two African frogs. My husband’s allergies are virtually gone by now, which is fortunate, because recently, I promised the kids a puppy.
McIntyre Postman writes for film and television and teaches screenwriting at USC.
L.A. Affairs chronicles the current dating scene in and around Los Angeles. We pay $300 a column. If you have comments or a true story to tell, email us at LAAffairs@latimes.com.