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L.A. Affairs: Sex with my roommate ended horribly. Here’s why I didn’t move out

Illustration of a queen and knight on a chessboard shaped like a castle.
He finally told me over a game of chess: “You know I really like you, right?” And I did.
(Carlos Zamora / For The Times)

At first, I ignored my crush on my roommate — but of course, trying not to like someone almost always has the opposite effect.

It was the early days of the pandemic and I had just moved from Tucson to Costa Mesa for a new job. I didn’t know anyone here in Southern California. But I soon found a room for rent in a big house with four people who were all very welcoming to me and my dog — particularly the roommate I would be sharing a bathroom with.

I was not attracted to him. At all. Until we both started working from home.

Thanks to therapy, to the pandemic, to stillness, to time and unbearable loneliness, I am looking back on all the people that have entered my life over the years as gifts.

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As the pandemic stretched on, we spent more and more time together, working out, chatting for hours and playing a lot of chess (which can be a very flirtatious game). I started to crush. One of his friends asked me out to dinner, and I probably would have said yes except that I was starting to imagine what it’d be like to date my roommate.

After several weeks of mounting sexual tension, he told me over a game of chess: “You know I really like you, right?”

I did.

I also knew that conventional wisdom says don’t date your roommate, but I thought maybe this was different. Maybe this was meant to happen?

It’s no wonder that trails in Orange County sometimes get overlooked.

So, I dived in. We both said we wanted something serious, not just a roommate-with-benefits situation. He knew so much about Orange County and showed me around to the extent we could at the time (so mostly just hiking and takeout). I was on top of the world, despite the world having been turned upside down. I started to feel more at home here in Southern California, the pandemic merely background noise.

After several weeks, though, he started acting weird in that way that guys with communication problems do when they have something to say but are too afraid to bring it up, so they wait for you to ask, “WTF?” He finally spit it out: He wasn’t over his ex.

It was horrible at first. But that first night after our breakup, he knocked on my door. He said that even though he was the one making me upset, he was there to talk if I wanted. His kindness impressed me and seemed to prove we could be friends. And, after a few weeks, we were.

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“You can wear high heels,” he said in a voice that conveyed this would turn him on. “I don’t wear high heels anymore,” I responded. “They’re too uncomfortable.”

But by summer’s end, we both felt it again. He told me he was finally, really over his ex and because he was so kind the last time, I figured I’d give him a second chance.

We eventually had the talk.

He told me, “I’m yours. You’re not sharing me with anyone.” So, I told my Arizona friends that my roommate and I were exclusively dating — a pandemic fairy tale!

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Of course, a week later he was acting weird again, avoiding me but trying to pretend like he wasn’t avoiding me. So, I cornered him in the kitchen.

I was still recovering from breast cancer. And my heart was shattered. I vowed I wouldn’t get back out in the dating world until I had worked through my fears and would take as much time as I needed to heal before attempting a new relationship.

“It’s so messed up I can’t even say it,” he said, but eventually admitted: “I’m talking to someone else.”

The worst-case scenario had manifested itself.

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This time, he was not kind. I couldn’t understand how his feelings changed so suddenly. And it wasn’t just losing a romantic interest, which happens all the time: I lost my best and only friend here in California. My main hang.

A few weeks later, he invited her for the weekend for his birthday party. (She lived a few hours away in his hometown.) It seemed too soon to have the girl with whom he replaced me so suddenly as a houseguest. But meeting her wasn’t as traumatic as I imagined; thankfully she was no Helen of Troy, as I had feared. I braved his birthday party because hiding in my room was my only other option.

I was obviously smitten, but he — recently divorced and emerging from a series of unsatisfactory relationships — did not seem to want anything more than to be friends.

When she was staying over, I tried to be chill about it — but that was almost impossible. She was loud and obnoxious, both in everyday conversation and during sex. (I could hear her ridiculous moaning from the bathroom between our two bedrooms.) The worst was when he was back in the office and I was working from home while she was staying over. Her constant presence was irritating. She hung around all day doing nothing, except taking hourlong showers and cooking him dinner without cleaning up.

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During one extended stay, I asked him when she was leaving. He said: “Uh, Friday, I think.” This easily crossed the eight-day limit we’d established for guests. So I flipped out. As it did for many people, 2020 brought out behavior and emotions far outside my usual repertoire: I yelled at him, cried, threatened to tell her about us (I doubt she ever knew) and trashed my room in a fit of rage. She left the next day.

I later heard him talking on the phone about his “crazy” roommate (of course leaving out the details of what he did to drive me crazy).

But truthfully, I did feel crazy. I also felt trapped and completely out of control.

What was really happening — only I didn’t realize it at the time — was that I was grieving the loss of the first person I’d made a meaningful connection with here in Southern California. It was a connection I needed desperately, being in this new place and trying to figure out a “new normal.”

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Meanwhile, I’ve searched Craigslist and Facebook again and again for rooms to rent, but many would not allow pets, others were too far from work and the rest within my budget were bleak. So I’ve stayed.

There was also an element of defiance: I didn’t want to let him drive me out.

These hikes showcase Southern California’s best ocean views, from Huntington Beach to Malibu

I’ve gotten over the romantic rejection, and now it’s more of an inconsiderate-roommate-with-an-annoying-long-distance-girlfriend sort of situation. Even though I am over him, it still hurts to lose a close friend and watch him become just a stranger who rarely cleans our shared bathroom.

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I’ve also started seeing someone new: the friend of his who asked me out way back when this all started. It doesn’t seem to bother my roommate, and I wouldn’t care if it did, because this man is a gem. Born and raised in L.A., he really knows how to show a girl around town.

As time passes, I realize there is no easy way out of dating your roommate, and perhaps that was him doing his best. We barely talk now, except for official roommate business, and we still both like the house more than we hate living with each other. So we manage to coexist despite the brutal breakup.

But, for the record: I still haven’t forgiven him, he still hasn’t apologized, and it’s still his turn to clean the bathroom.

The author is a theater artist and producer at South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa. You can find her on Instagram at @annabananajennings.

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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.


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