In my first summer in L.A., I find myself bored. There are a lot of things to do, but I lack company. I'm not sure how to meet people when I'm in between jobs and no longer in school. I don't have friends to go out with, and I refuse to go to bars alone, so I turn to online dating. Out of curiosity, I even post on Craigslist's Missed Connections. I write a vague message like the ones I often read there: You smiled at me on the elevator. Surely such an obscure post wouldn't attract much attention, but to my surprise nearly 200 responses come in. I assume at least 90% are murderers. However, there is one response that catches my eye.
He claims to be a producer, but if living in Los Angeles has taught me anything, it's that a lot of people claim to be what they're not. I do my research (meaning I pulled up his name on IMDB). His story checks out. He worked on a well-known TV show. Now he writes for a drama that I haven't seen yet but my grandma claims is superb. I'm a writer, so I'm not against making a business connection at the very least. I agree to meet him for coffee.
We meet at the Starbucks near La Brea Tar Pits. He is an OK-looking individual, although much older than men I am used to dating, but I remain open-minded. He is in his late 40s, has salt-and-pepper hair and glasses that add charm. We make decent conversation.
He seems to sympathize with my story: new to L.A., living on a couch, looking for work. He uses the familiar line, "You remind me of myself when I was younger." He expresses that it's his new mission to help me get on my feet. He sends an email to his assistant to help find me an apartment, and we plan a dinner date for the following weekend.
He picks me up in an expensive car. It's supposed to impress me. I feign interest. I would much rather talk about writing. We have dinner at Luna Park on South La Brea. He drops an overstuffed binder of scripts on the table in between us. We are supposed to talk business. We never do.
Dinner leads to drinks at a hotel. When we arrive, the valet knows him by name. The bar inside is dead, so he suggests we try the lounge on the roof. He wants to drop his things off in his hotel room, where he likes to regularly write, and tells me he has to make a phone call. I'm instructed to go upstairs and reserve a table. When the elevator door opens on the top floor, I see the place is packed. I head back to his room to see what he wants to do.
He suggests we order dessert and wine from room service. Since he hasn't made a pass at me yet, I decide it's OK. I kick my shoes off and sit on the bed. I begin to flip through a script. He asks if it's all right if he takes a quick shower. I try to be accommodating and say, "Whatever will make you most comfortable."
Before I know what's coming, he strips down to nothing and is looking out the hotel window with his hands on his hips. I've never been in a situation like this before, so I don't know how to react. I do what I do best and make a joke out of an uncomfortable situation.
He starts to pace around the room and talk quickly. He becomes what I imagine is the definition of manic. He has a chest of white hair and a stomach that protrudes from his body. He pushes me back on the bed and makes advances. I'm resistant, but I'm also worried about not being polite. I start to examine the room for all possible escape routes. I come to the conclusion that I don't think he is mentally unstable but perhaps just on drugs. I don't know a thing about drugs, but a friend later tells me it sounds a lot like coke.
I say I have to leave, and I make it out alive. I tell myself I won't find myself alone in a room with him again, but I still hope to make a professional connection out of it because I hear that's the only way to break into the entertainment industry. The connection never goes anywhere because he continues to be creepy, sending me photos of things that should never see the light of day, and so I sever ties. I tell myself never again do I need to pretend to be polite if I'm in an uncomfortable situation. I may not have left with a connection, but I left with a lesson learned.
Aleece Reynaga is a Los Angeles-based writer.