I was living in Los Feliz, a stone's throw from Griffith Park. I loved that once I made the long drive home from teaching in South Los Angeles on Friday, I could have a weekend of hiking, culture and trendy restaurants without ever getting in my car. My good friend lived across the hall, and it was she who got the call from our mutual friend, a prolific dater, to come to a singles party in Santa Monica that was uncharacteristically short on women. I balked. Intentional mating events and trekking to the Westside filled me with dread. Still, as a favor and because my neighbor offered to drive, I went.
We spent the evening squished on a couch with an architect, who was tipsy and offered to buy me a house, and Bruce, a friend of our dater friend. Bruce was one of many in her stable of potentials who just wasn't quite perfect. Though mostly trapped in the drunken conversation to my left, I chatted enough with Bruce to note that he seemed pleasant, mildly humorous and altogether inoffensive. A week later, I went solo to a house concert and ran into him. This time I found him downright enjoyable, though I still didn't see this Jewish doctor from the Valley as a potential date. When the evening ended and he remarked, "I hope we see each other again," I breezily responded, "I'm sure we will" and bounced away.
Shortly after, I left for Paris, a consolation trip after five years of trying to get pregnant on my own and failing. When I returned there was a message from Bruce. On our first date, we took my favorite hike to Frank Lloyd Wright's Ennis House, enjoyed a low-key Italian dinner and had a nice evening. Not spectacular, but very nice. And that characterized our sporadic dating over the next three months until I invited him to come with me to visit my family-by-choice in San Diego for the Fourth of July.
Our day went splendidly — Bruce gamely consumed his first tofu-pup and I noticed that I felt a strong spark of physical attraction that he hadn't triggered before. My godson pulled me aside to say, "I like him," and on the drive home, I realized that Bruce's Lexus might be bourgeois, but it was really comfortable.
And then I heard nothing for almost two weeks.
I finally initiated contact, asking if he wanted to do something that weekend. Hesitation and then, "OK, as long as you understand I don't see anything romantic happening between us." Well, damn, I thought, another idiot man who doesn't know a fabulous woman when he meets one. Who needs him? What I said was, "Actually, I'm a little disappointed, and I need some time. I have plenty of friends, but you can call in a few weeks."
A week went by and I found I wasn't that upset, a testament to not yet having become intimate, and I did enjoy his company so I figured what the heck. I phoned, and we agreed to meet at a movie in Glendale.
As we stood chatting in line, he asked me what I was doing the week after next.
"The whole week," he replied. "Most summers I go to the Aspen Music Festival, but I spend a lot of time alone writing morose entries in my journal. I thought it would be fun to bring a friend."
I laughed, "I can't do that on a teacher's salary."
"That's OK," he said. "My treat."
And so we went for six magical days in Aspen.
We spent every waking moment together. We had rooms side-by-side at a charming motel, and each evening we would go to our separate doors, keys in hand, like something out of a Katharine Hepburn movie. One night, we got a little tipsy and he actually kissed me good night. Could things be progressing, I thought? But the next evening it was back to being utterly platonic. When we retired to our respective rooms for the last time, I threw pillows at the walls, cursing him for his obliviousness.
The flight home was quiet, the inch separating our elbows on the armrest bristling with energy. It was Friday, and he had invited me to go with him Saturday to an anniversary dinner with his best friend and his wife. We had a great time. However, as we drove back to my car, parked at Bruce's home in Tarzana, I wondered if he would invite me in and my blood simmered. I also thought: "If he thinks I will be his date whenever his sorry, single self needs someone to make a foursome, he can forget it."
He invited me in. We sat on the couch in the den. Shockingly, he took my hand. "I think we need to talk," he said. I looked at him. "I think you need to talk."
So he did, about how he realized on the trip that he had never spent close to that amount of time with anyone without feeling annoyed, about how he had wanted to take the next step but felt it wasn't part of the "deal," having invited me to come as just a friend.
About how he had longed to take my hand on the plane ride home.
Exactly one year later we returned to Aspen, same motel, but just one room this time. It was a beautiful honeymoon.
Samuels is a storyteller and substitute teacher living in Tarzana with her husband, Bruce, and their twin daughters.
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.
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