L.A. Affairs: I was too happy and in love to notice the red flags
Ludi Leiva / For The Times
I landed in Los Angeles with my 10- and 12-year-old daughters in December 2013. After a couple of very hard years in my hometown of Rio de Janeiro, I decided to take them to California during their summer break from school. I wanted to show them the L.A. enchantment that I remembered from my 20s when I first moved here to become a screenwriter.
Arriving in L.A. again, I realized that the magic was still here, and my daughters and I had an amazing visit. Seeing fake snowflakes at the Grove on Christmas Eve was planted in my girls’ memories as one of their sweetest L.A. moments. They enjoyed going to Griffith Observatory, the Getty Villa, Universal Studios Hollywood and Santa Monica.
Then Adriano, an Italian transplant to L.A., happened. We met during a last-minute visit to go see Simon, my old friend and first agent, who lived near Montana Avenue in Santa Monica. As Simon was showing my daughters and me the neighborhood, he checked his phone and said, “Damn, I have to go back home. I forgot that my friend Adriano is stopping by.” We rushed back with my girls tagging along just as happily as always. (They are the best children a single mother could ever have.)
I was surprised by the way married men acted around me. I noticed that men kept at a distance, were tense and side-eyed me around their wives.
It was a Sunday, and I never thought I would fall in love on a Sunday. After all, my life isn’t a movie, but there he was, entering not only Simon’s house but also our lives. Adriano was wearing a Lakers cap backwards and he had a smile that immediately broke through the seven seals that had been guarding my heart for almost 10 years — since the father of my girls left us.
A week later, Adriano asked me out on a date. I happened to be visiting the Bay Area then, and he was in Palo Alto at the time. We went to a jazz club in Oakland, where music legend Pharoah Sanders was performing. When he played “My Favorite Things,” I leaned my head onto Adriano’s shoulder, and he kissed me. It became one of my very favorite things to do.
As Adriano and I got to know each other better, we discovered how much we had in common. It seemed that life had been playing hide-and-seek with us for many years. We realized that we lived in Paris in 1991 and went to the same small bank branch. Also, back in 1999 when I was represented by Simon, Adriano was working at the same talent agency. And we stayed in the same hotel during the 2008 Cannes Film Festival. How was it possible that we had never crossed paths?
Three weeks into dating, friends and strangers thought we were an old couple. We would host dinners together in Adriano’s condo in Santa Monica and we’d also take the girls to the California Science Center, movie nights, Little Tokyo, Manhattan Beach — everywhere as if we were a family. It was very surreal, but I also had to find a way to cope with the fact that it was completely real.
I started dreaming of moving to L.A., of working again in Hollywood, and of getting married to Adriano and living in Santa Monica. I even dreamed of having my daughters enrolled at SAMO — Santa Monica’s top-tier high school that goes by a nickname.
Writing a sleek profile and posting alluring pictures on a dating app was one thing, but making a deep connection on the first date was another.
However, after three months in the U.S., it was time for my girls and me to go back to Brazil. I realized that Adriano and Los Angeles were just meant to be a holiday affair. As I took the 10 freeway one last time during this visit, Lana Del Rey sang my feelings on the radio. It was a summertime sadness.
That night, I sat down with my girls and talked about the possibility of moving to L.A., perhaps for a year, for a while or maybe forever. To my surprise, they got excited. I knew my daughters’ approval was all I needed to proceed. The rest would fall into place.
I have no idea how I made it all happen in six months: the visa, the work transition, the new school for the girls and being 6,000 miles away from everything they ever knew. However, in September 2014, we landed at Los Angeles International Airport with six suitcases and many dreams.
Adriano and I dated for five years. He proposed to me at the Santa Monica Palihouse, where he had rented a room and filled it with red roses and Champagne. He gave me the most perfect ring. When the girls started high school, we moved to a beautiful house in Santa Monica, walking distance from SAMO. It seemed that all my dreams had come true.
Maybe that’s why I never saw it coming. I was too happy to spot the red flags. Determined to make it work, no matter what. But one quiet morning, shortly after our engagement anniversary, I found a letter in the mail. I can still remember the sunlight dancing on my bedroom floor as I read it. Adriano had cheated on me — just like that.
I got season tickets to L.A. Opera. Initially I wanted to meet a man who also loved opera, but what I realized is that I wanted someone who loved me.
It didn’t only break my heart, it shattered my soul. I broke it off that same day — not only the engagement but our family. He moved back to his condo, and I stayed in the house that was meant to hold dreams.
For a long time, I was afraid to go for a walk and cross paths with him. His ghost was everywhere, and the shadows of us haunted me. When the COVID-19 shutdown came, everything turned indoors, and I turned inward. That was when my heart locked up again, seal by seal.
I never bumped into Adriano again, but sometimes I smelled his scent in the air. Recently I learned he went back to Europe. However, I could never go back to Brazil. I realized that I’m still madly in love — not with him but with Los Angeles.
The author is a creative consultant and writer living in Marina del Rey. Her websites are lauramalin.com and malinentertainment.com. Find her on Instagram at @lauramalinauthor and on LinkedIn as laura-malin.
L.A. Affairs chronicles the search for romantic love in all its glorious expressions in the L.A. area, and we want to hear your true story. We pay $300 for a published essay. Email LAAffairs@latimes.com. You can find submission guidelines here. You can find past columns here.
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