L.A. Affairs: I flew to L.A. for a kiss. The least I deserved was some honesty
I had always liked S. Always. One of those small crushes that you barely recognize until the object of your affection is out of reach. For the last four years, I had seen him a few nights a week. Both aspiring comedians, we were staples of the Portland, Ore., comedy scene, hitting the town, looking for any stage time we could get.
Now he was moving on to try to make it big time: Los Angeles. When I found out, I knew I had to speak up. To have my moment. I sent him a text saying that I needed a kiss before he left. (I figured that if he said, “No, thanks,” I could just stay home and avoid him until he left. Or play it off as a joke.)
He was flattered, one text turned into a million flirty messages. His remaining days in town were a whirlwind. I spent my working hours trying to remain awake after staying out with him every night, following him from one venue to another. I ruined my purse with the grease from McDonald’s French fries, the only thing I had time to eat. Feeding my crush was more important.
My path seeking love had been long and circuitous and took me through many L.A.-area neighborhoods. I kept looking for “The One” but kept getting stuck with “Not This One.”
I attempted to move on, but I couldn’t.
A few weeks later, I was interviewing a friend for another friend’s podcast and, between takes, explained my state of bereftness.
“You should go visit,” he said.
The idea to me was stupid. I had never gone anywhere on a plane by myself. (I mean, without my parents on family vacations.) And I certainly had no business in L.A. Traveling alone sounded insane. “I can’t do that,” I said.
“You need to go to L.A. to see him,” my podcast friend urged.
I thought the pandemic might bring us closer, as we both tried to express our deepest fears and vulnerabilities. But in the end, my fears didn’t matter at all.
That same night at dinner my mom offered to buy me a plane ticket as a present for graduating college: “San Fran for your birthday?” she asked.
“What if I went to L.A. for my birthday?” I responded, casually, as if it were for comedy and nothing more.
I told S. I was coming for a long weekend. He seemed excited. He quizzed me about where I would be staying and the nice hotel I’d booked in DTLA.
I arrived in L.A. on a Thursday night. S. couldn’t see me on Friday, he had to work. I spent my time doing what I call “literary tourism” — visiting sites from various books. The New Beverly Cinema (after reading “Silver Screen Fiend” by Patton Oswalt). Oki Dog from “Weetzie Bat.” I texted S. everything I saw. Every tiny detail. Even pictures of the photo shoot I saw happening on Fairfax. He couldn’t have got any work done that day. He was too busy texting me back.
We had been dating for three years when he finally told me he didn’t believe in the institution of marriage. “Why do women always want marriage?” he said.
That night, he said he had a stand-up show to go to. He didn’t invite me. (You’re probably wondering why I just didnt say, “Sounds cool, where is it? I’ll come check it out.” That is a very good question and the answer: my low self-esteem.)
Instead, I looked around for something to do and caught Tig Notaro. While I waited for the show to begin, I got my nails done at a tiny salon nearby. I texted S. that a plain manicure is cheaper than getting a drink when you’re killing time and need to charge your phone. Plus, no one hits on you. “Good,” he replied. I beamed, glad he didn’t want anyone else flirting with me.
I spent the first night in my big hotel bed alone.
Saturday was my birthday. I woke up to my first birthday texts, from my mom and S.
We have been married for 12 years. But in spring 2020, under quarantine, and especially in the first weeks, we began talking to each other again just like in our beginning, only in person.
I put on my favorite pink miniskirt to meet him at Stories in Echo Park for a comedy show. I thought I looked sexy. S. told me I looked cold. He’d gotten there early and we chatted briefly before he peeled off to help set up chairs, explaining it helped him have an “in” for future bookings. I was pretty sure he was keeping an eye on me as I browsed the bookshelves.
During the show, he stood in the back while I ended up in the fourth row where I’d sat so I could charge my phone at a nearby outlet. We exchanged looks throughout the show, grimacing when we truly hated something. Always the same jokes.
After the show, I waited out front for him. He came over and put his arms around me. We held on to each other and talked until everyone else had long gone home. It would have been the perfect moment for that kiss I never got back in Portland.
“I have to go,” he said, explaining he had to work the next day.
I offered to come see him before my Sunday afternoon flight home. He mumbled something about all the stuff he had to do.
It didn’t sound like a rejection, exactly, just like he didn’t want to bother me.
Instead of going back to my empty hotel room, I met up with a friend for silver dollar pancakes at the 101 Coffee Shop. I was explaining it all when a text from S. arrived, suggesting a possible comedy show to catch before my flight, but the timing didn’t work out.
“What the hell,” my friend wondered. “Is he nervous?”
Sunday, I walked around downtown L.A. feeling sorry for myself and trying to figure it all out. S. hadn’t turned me down, but he hadn’t kissed me, either.
On the flight home it hit: I got on a plane for this man. I deserved more than a text back. Like, maybe some honesty?
A few months later I got a call from my friend Aubrey telling me that S. was moving back to Portland after he had tried to kiss his roommate — his best friend’s ex-girlfriend. Aubrey was cackling so hard I had to wait for her to calm down so I could hear the full story. He’d tried to make his move while all three of them were still living together. “It was a disaster,” she said, still laughing so hard she was gasping for air. I laughed too.
Mostly at myself.
Elizabeth Teets is a comedian, fashionista and screenwriter. Her website is elizabethteets.com.
Straight, gay, bisexual, transgender or nonbinary — L.A. Affairs chronicles the search for love in and around Los Angeles, and we want to hear your story. The story you tell has to be true, and you must allow your name to be published, We pay $300 for each essay we publish. Email us at LAAffairs@latimes.com. You can find submission guidelines here.
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