An immigration lawyer meets me for lunch at a Vegan bar downtown and sends me poetry the same night. A handsome James Dean-wannabe with a strong jawline and a mediocre commercial acting reel asks me if I like disco dancing or if I’m into “pain.” A beat-boxing Iranian Jew and part-time motion graphics editor takes me to dinner, walks me around a lake, and then disappears. A perpetually half-naked yoga instructor continues to text me from his converted barn in the deep valley, asking if I’d like a “cosmic vagina massage” anytime soon.\
Sometimes, when I’m walking through the tree -lined streets of Los Feliz and the sun hits my space-themed iPhone case just right, I’ll think back to the 24 year-old director who looked like John Cusack-after-five-beers, who once asked me if I’d “be down to go to Palm Springs with him for the weekend and pretend to be a couple for 48 hours” because that’s all he could commit to at the time, unfortunately. And, of course, I’ll never forget the well-intentioned white guy from Connecticut, who sold fake IDs in college and had an obsession with electronic music, who dumped me on Valentine’s Day in a Laguna Beach hotel.
The sheer number of times I’ve been elaborately ghosted in one way or another is beginning to make me think that Los Angeles is just one giant apparition. And even if it did exist, at this point all I can see are the reflections of ripped, plaid-shirted men, awkwardly holding craft beers and standing in front of the LACMA light structure with their boys.
I met N. just as I was about to turn 30 and throw my phone into an ocean. It was love at first tweet. I used to mock people who met online, back when Twitter and Instagram first started. I would assume the voice of an old, reflective grandmother, explaining to her grandkids how she met her husband: “well it was simple, kids: your grandfather liked three of my tweets in a row, I slid into his DMs, and the rest is history.”
In this case, my elderly voice would’ve been right. One night, just shortly after my roommate decided to make it The Loudest Night Of All Time, pacing back and forth past my door in his 900-pound shoes, I tweeted that I wished he’d morph into a Capri Sun-like puddle, a la The Secret World of Alex Mack— and that’s when N. responded. A simple “same” was all it took.
I smiled, looking down at my phone.
“How is it that I haven’t met this comedian yet, IRL? This avatar of a man, whose love for improv comedy doesn’t seem too aggressive, and who’s been following me for the past…I don’t even know…months? Years?” I had to find out.
As the earthquake of footsteps continued, I slid effortlessly into his DMs like a swan, gliding over a springtime pond at sunrise.
“You got roommate woes too?” I asked.
Only a couple minutes passed before he responded with, “You know it girl.” I smiled.
“Same, tbh,” I thought, not yet responding.
I looked down: he had written back again. A double response. The rarest of finds.
“TBH… you’re pretty funny,” he wrote.
And that was that.
We exchanged numbers and agreed to meet for a drink the following Thursday in Silver Lake. He had just moved to Los Angeles from New York and was looking for someone to give him a lay of the land. “Damn,” I thought. “I’m pretty much a millennial Carrie Bradshaw and I should probably just delete all my dating apps right now. I’ll give you a lay of the land, alright.”
My internal monologue was no doubt sassier than my real-life guarded self, but I powered through those initial moments like I was the Bachelorette, ignoring my usual second voice of doubt and instead pushing myself to remain “open to love.”
The conversation flowed on effortlessly. N. smiled at my self-described neuroticism, calling me the “good kind” of crazy, and I simply laughed.
“Do you have any experience with anxiety disorders?” I continued, dipping a quarter-sized piece of flatbread into a dish of offensively spicy hummus.
“Oh, all kinds,” he offered, almost immediately.
“Go on,” I urged. “We talkin’ generalized anxiety, panic, OCD? Hit me.”
“My sister’s bipolar, and my mom comes from a long line of anguished Jews.”
“He’s Jewish???” I thought. Ok, it’s over. Done deal. Check please. We gotta get to Santa Barbara before the wedding guests arrive.
As our food came, we talked about Marshall McLuhan and Alan Watts and made fun of the new Emoji movie, wrapping up the evening by walking around the same lake that the beat-boxer took me to. I knew there had to be a catch. He called me a Lyft and we hugged goodbye, agreeing to “kick it again” soon.
It’s been six months and we’ve been kicking it ever since.
Sometimes, friends will invite me over for dinner on a Saturday night and I’ll respond, “That sounds great! Let me check with N.” Other times, friends will invite N. over for dinner and he’ll respond, “Cool! Let me see what the lady is thinking.” One time, a mutual friend texted us at the same time and we both responded, “we’re in.” It’s been a really wild ride.
I remember one evening, after we had just had “the talk” and agreed to be exclusive, N. asked me if I’d like to share a bottle of wine. I told him that I had hypoglycemic tendencies, but he assured me that by drinking water and eating crackers, my system would equalize. He was right. As I struggled to open the bottle, feigning a quirky sense of naiveté like I was Zoey Deschanel (Gd help me), he snapped a candid photo. I remember looking at his Instagram later that night. The same picture was on his page, this time with a slight filter and the caption “when the low blood sugar hits. Love this girl.” I think I was falling in love, too.
We went to Dodger games together and took heavily-filtered selfies. We visited Joshua Tree and posted eight-part Instagram stories. We took stupid Snapchats at beautiful museums, attended friends’ dinner parties in the Valley, and rested each other’s hands nonchalantly on each other’s thighs. Once when I was walking out the door, he placed his hand lightly on the small of my back and guided me through the archway. It was really cool. I was cool.
Everything had been going so great that I almost forgot what the single life felt like. All the countless nights I lied awake, imagining what it would be like to have a boyfriend who guided me through archways with ease, or who gently rubbed my back while we stood in various lines, or who called me on the phone to make plans for the upcoming weekend… all of these stories began to fade away, because I finally had it all.
But one night, everything changed yet again.
Not too long after our one-year mark together, N. came home from a late-night comedy show and found me wide awake, writing on the floor and listening to music loudly.
As he leaned over to kiss me, he glanced at the screen and saw his name. The giant N. stared back at him. Archways, dinner parties, Dodger games.
I was startled.
“What are you writing about me?” he asked, casually.
I slammed the laptop shut and turned around.
“Oh, nothing really. Just some reflections.
He smiled and sat down. “Katie, I need to talk to you.”
I spun all the way around, quickly pulling my legs into my chest and feigning concern—but also trying hard to look like a hot yoga girl from Instagram.
“What’s up?” I asked.
He exhaled. “Come here.” He beckoned me towards him, patting the bed for me to come sit like I was Michelle Tanner in early episodes of Full House.
“Babe, this needs to end.”
“What needs to end?” I asked, innocently.
“All of this. You can’t keep writing stories about me.” I was drawing a blank. I didn’t know what he was talking about! My writing made me happy. It helped me deal with reality. And besides, I never mentioned him directly.
“I don’t exist,” he said, bluntly.
And with that, N. gave me a side-hug, still smelling faintly of weed and woodsy cologne, and shriveled back into my iPhone case, tucking himself neatly into the Twitter avatar from whence he came.
“Damn. Could’ve been effortless…tbh,” I thought, just as my roommate dropped a stack of plates in the kitchen.