I broke my own cardinal rule by asking Josie out during the holidays. (In college I had determined that any guy who asks a girl out in November comes across as desperate for someone to spend Christmas with.)
But this was different. I was coming out of a crumbling, 10-year relationship, and adjusting to life back in the U.S. after a tour of duty in Iraq and three deployments to South Korea. I had no plans on making a new love connection. My single objective was to get her on the back of my chopper and take her to an annual spring motorcycle rally in La Puente. I had attended the same rally earlier that year with friends. I had decreed right then and there that if I came back the following year, I would have a date on my arm. Josie was perfect.
She wasn’t some groupie who worshiped guys with immaculate bikes. She was from the Midwest and had moved into my northeast Los Angeles neighborhood to make it as an actor. I’d met her at my American Legion club room. She was a “hasher” — you know, a member of that “drinking club with a running problem.” They were having drinks in our bar after a run. I was the post commander and offered a tour. By the end of it, I asked to add her on Facebook, rascal that I am. My date to the rally was nearly secured.
Even though it was the middle of November, I messaged Josie to ask if she’d like to go out to dinner. The rally was still months away, but I figured if I didn’t act fast, I ran the risk of being forgotten by the time the rally rolled around. She agreed, so long as it was platonic. I assured her that it was. Came to find she lived not far from me in Highland Park.
I picked her up just two days before Thanksgiving on my fully-customized 2005 Harley-Davidson Softail, raked and stretched with a purple metal flake paint job and an all-chrome torqued out S&S engine. We rode to Little Tokyo to a sushi spot I knew. The trees at Tokyo Village were already adorned with holiday lights and we took two empty seats at the bar. After a shared rainbow plate, we were hitting it off quite handily.
I explained my situation. I was just ending one relationship, and faced with starting all over again, not sure of my next step. She was receptive, understanding and gorgeous. Toward the end of dinner I admitted that my only goal that night was to not fall on my face. She assured me I hadn’t.
The next day she invited me to join her as she checked out a new drinking-and-running route for her club. We plotted a trail, visited a few watering holes, and high-fived our success when we were done.
Soon, we were spending nearly every day together, at my place or hers. We would walk to Maximiliano for pastas and red wine. We caught up with “GLOW” on her iPad. She traveled home for Christmas, but upon her return I made her tacos. She made meatball sandwiches for us a few days later.
I had been daunted at facing reentry back into the dating scene, but she was making the transition easy for me. That is, until she told me she was worried things were getting too serious. For me, it was still too early to say that. So when she said she needed more room to “spread her wings,” I gave it to her and told her I was OK with just being friends. Truth be told I felt accomplished. Like I had nothing more to prove.
A few weeks later, when her theater troupe needed someone to do tech in L.A. for a play she was in, I volunteered. It meant I got to see her every Thursday for the show’s run. For the first show, we drove over together in my car and sang along to the Smiths’ “How Soon Is Now?” By the second show, Josie drove herself. She said we could still hang out, but that she still had feelings for her ex. Dutifully, I completed my volunteer tech work but cringed on the nights she departed without me. She was beautiful in her part in an adaptation of “Reservoir Dogs.” By the fourth show she was applying dramatic pauses at key scenes, capturing my heart.
A few weeks after the last show, I texted Josie and reminded her about the rally, which was then just a few days away. She admitted that she had forgotten about it but was still willing to go. I was proud to have her on my arm. There, she pulled me out to the dance floor and we freaked like high school kids until the music ended. We came back to my place and cuddled, but that was all. Josie said we could only be friends and neighbors. I walked her home.
You already know the end of the story. Despite my own insistence to not let it happen, I had developed feelings for that girl.
The contest of love is the only one where it doesn’t matter who comes in first. What matters is who finishes last.
I can’t be unhappy over the outcome, however.
I overcame my expectations, and got myself back out there. She reminded me of all that was good about being back in the United States. And she got me through the holidays after a bad breakup.
A couple weeks later, I left good-bye flowers on her doorstep.
All in all, not a bad run.
The author is a writer and Army reservist. His website is la1news.com.
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