It ended as fast as it began.
That cold Saturday in October, I was over the moon after our seven-hour second date, the sequel to our five-hour first one. We drove up Pacific Coast Highway — or “the PCH,” as he said in his northern British accent. His personality reminded me somewhat of my father’s — brilliant, thoughtful, determined — but with a wicked, sexy edge entirely his own.
Cuddling in the back seat of his Jeep, my head was against his chest, his arms around me. I smiled as the wind whistled through the grass near Point Mugu. For the first time with a man, my brain wasn’t full of chatter and anxieties. I couldn’t remember the last time it was so quiet.
The next day, I went for my weekly visit to my father at the Motion Picture Home in Woodland Hills. Dad and I have always been close. He’s quirky yet quiet, full of old L.A. stories that paint the city with magic. I am also his primary caretaker, taking him to appointments and advocating when necessary. It’s my payment to him for being the only one who could reach me with love, compassion and empathy when I was an out-of-control teenager.
I hinted at this new man’s existence, as Dad is way too concerned about my love life. I said I liked him a lot but remained calm, as this was new.
By Monday, a family emergency meant all this new man’s future plans, the ones that he told me about on our dates, completely shifted. He was going back to the U.K. — whether temporarily or permanently was yet to be seen — but it wasn’t fair to hold on to me with everything up in the air.
You can’t fault a man who does the right thing in dating, no matter how much pain it causes. But I‘d never had a relationship end over “life happens” — not one this promising, anyway.
I cried until my head ached, my body attached to the bed as I watched “Gravity Falls” and “Big Hero 6,” while the food I ate turned to ash in my mouth. Talking to my friends about him and what happened, their reactions were split. Some viewed him with a quizzical brow — a fair response given the treachery of dating. Others swooned, saying they were sure he’d come back to me, which led me to raise a brow at them, due to my severe lack of luck in the world of romance.
But the one person I hadn’t told was Dad.
The following Sunday, I went to run errands with him and possibly take a drive. After loading Dad into the passenger seat and his walker into the back of my CR-V, we headed off. I apologized for not calling him, as this week had been bad.
“What happened?” he asked.
I didn’t know where to begin. The week was full of other mishaps on top of heartbreak. But with those, I’m capable enough to remedy them quickly and move on; this was the one thing I couldn’t control, the one I yearned for most.
After our errands, I asked him what he wanted to do. After a few minutes of thought, Dad said, “You know, I still haven’t seen the 6th Street bridge.” I’m always in for a downtown adventure, so I put on the oldies playlist I made for him and sped toward the I-5.
We talked about my job and the upcoming elections. He worked on his throat exercises to strengthen his vocal cords, the car filling with loud “Aaaaaa eeeee ahhhh ooooooohs” and laughter. Dad told me about playing poker and his new friends — although he hadn’t been able to get back his copy of “Everything Everywhere All at Once” from one of them.
Finally, in the lull exiting into Boyle Heights, I got the courage. “Dad, do you remember I told you last week that I was starting to see someone?” I said.
He nodded. I explained everything. The five-hour first date. The seven-hour second. The family emergency. How smart, generous and respectful he was. How he felt like my mirror, alike in our commonalities while reflecting me the way I wanted to be in the world. Confident. Brave. Playful. Beautiful.
“Uh-oh,” Dad said, laughing sadly. “You’re smitten.”
I swallowed. Dad knows me too well, particularly that falling for someone like this doesn’t happen to me. For the first time in my dating life, I was certain of my feelings for a man from the get-go. However, my future with him may not happen, and I needed to accept that.
As Jackie DeShannon crooned about the world needing love, we made our way across the 6th Street bridge, downtown framed perfectly. I drove slowly, savoring the view, my eyes attempting to capture the awe on my father’s face as we crossed this new Los Angeles architectural wonder.
Afterward we headed to Philippe’s, where we were blessed with not only perfect parking but a short line to get French dip sandwiches. As I watched Dad devouring his with overwhelming glee while his feet tapped the sawdust floor, I realized this was the first moment since Monday that I’d experienced joy.
Although I am the caretaker now, my father still found ways to care for me. Like my angst-filled teenage self, I needed to be led out of heartbreak with compassion, empathy and love. Who better to do it than the person who did it first?
We slowly headed back, wandering through Chinatown and Elysian Park, singing “Peggy Sue” and “Can’t Buy Me Love” to scenic views of Dodger Stadium and skyscrapers. It may not be the Pacific with the man who stole my heart, but at least I shared it with someone I love.
The author is a screenwriter and freelance writer in Los Angeles. She’s on Instagram: @reinavictoria
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