Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Stunt Man

Like the quintessential Little Black Dress, every gal in the dating pool surely has one: a psychotic ex. Mine is no exception- a sterling example of his species, complete with restraining orders and 5150's. Stunning.

I met this prize in LA when my dear friend Rob asked me to help him out with one of his video projects. There would be swords and stuntfighting, so how could I resist? When I arrived and we started shooting, I noticed one of the stunt guys looking at me. Like, really LOOKING at me- the sort of piqued fascination which pierced through my shield of cynicism and got me LOOKING right back at him.
I thought, wow, that sparkle in his eye- is this indicative of some internal blazing fire of passion?


It was the pilot light of insanity.

But he was sweet and he laughed at my jokes, and, regrettably, stretched that day in such a way that his shirt lifted up to reveal the most gorgeous set of abs I've ever seen. These abs essentially located and hit some sort of "power down" button in my brain.
Can I just, in my own defense, point out that I was in a really shallow mindset at this time?

If I could've just dated his abs, I would've- it didn't seem like we had a whole lot in common. I'm a writer. He gets lit on fire a lot. Hm. He was different from other guys I'd dated in two major ways- one, he was the first person I've dated who is shorter than me. Two, he actually wanted a relationship. He didn't want to "date," or "see each other," he wanted me to be his girlfriend. "He was done dicking around, and he knew what he wanted," he said.

Flattered, I still asked him to remove my photo from the homescreen wallpaper on his cell phone.
I mean, I didn't really KNOW this guy, and it made this sick hollow feeling leak through my gut every time he referred to me as "his girl." I was so confused- here was someone who was telling me everything I wanted to hear, but I had a physical reaction in my stomach every time he talked about how much he liked me.

Foolishly, I blew it off. Maybe it was because I was gunshy about getting hurt again. Maybe I was being shallow because he was short. I didn't know. I didn't know, and since I couldn't figure it out, I wanted to take things slow until I got to know him better. I told him I didn't want to have sex with someone unless I was in a committed, monogamous relationship. He assured me he had eyes only for me, and had stopped dating anyone else after we started seeing each other. He was fine taking things slow, he was fine waiting.
Then he told me he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me.
RINGDINGDINGDINGDINGADINGDING went every siren and red flag and warning alarm in my brain.

I didn't feel the right feels for him. I was attracted to his body, but everything about the rest of him made me really uncomfortable.
But he WANTED me, right? Unlike most of the guys I dated who just wanted to hook up, this was (seemingly) the one heterosexual male on the planet who was actually looking for a relationship.
But he was shorter than me. So surely that was the problem. I stuffed the anxiety and acid down and convinced myself it was just me being shallow. I'd get to know him better, then make an informed decision.
Besides, I liked how he let me treat him. He let me cook for him and take him to do outdoorsy things. Like a love-starved puppy, he was over-the-top enthusiastic about every little thing I'd do. Like thanking me profusely for texting him.

New Year's Eve rolls around and I'm going to a party. He has to work, so I go alone, which suits me just fine. I was experiencing the very first pangs of growth as an individual and actually looking forward to some pensive reflection on the dock at the party.
I told The Stuntman this, and he agreed he'd give me some space.
I ignored my phone as he called 19 times after midnight and left 5 voicemails.
DINGDINGDINGDING goes the alarm, but I'm not paying attention as I enjoy the fireworks reflecting across the lake's black waters.
I make my New Year's Resolutions. None of them include the Stunt Man, but I was flexing my fledgeling wings and tried not to feel guilty.

We spent a lot of time together and after a few weeks, I invited him to spend the night at my place.
He took his shirt off (nnnnnooooooooo!!!) and climbed into bed, promising to be a gentleman.

...Anyone who's read any of these blogs knows exactly what happens next.
This was during my Ambien days, also known as The Days Of Bad Decisions.
I tell him explicitly that I do NOT want to have sex with him, that I just wanted him to sleep NEXT TO ME, nothing else.
The sex was amazing.
Or, I think it was. Stupid Ambien.
Really, what I remember, was this weird half-hallucination of him naked except for a Robin (as in, Batman And) mask. Urg.
I'd been on a big Batman kick at the time, and even my subconscious saw him as a lowly sidekick, but nevertheless, the sun came up and we had to have a chat.
He admitted he had perhaps taken advantage of the situation, and there I was having had sex with someone who was not my boyfriend.
My brilliant solution to deal with the consequences of my actions in an adult manner?
"Walp, I guess we're in a relationship!"

He was over the moon ecstatic. I felt positively sick and immediately regretted my decision.
After he left I went to go use my bathroom, and discovered that he'd left his toothbrush there.
I was instantly filled with revulsion. I wasn't charmed, I was angry- and I knew that wasn't the right reaction.
Was I turning into the kind of person who didn't want a relationship?
Was I (gasp) one of THOSE people who would have sex with someone they didn't care for, just for the sake of sex?
No. No, that wasn't me. I was a relationship person. It's how I'm wired- but as much as it was something I wanted, I knew it was wrong to be in a relationship with a guy just because I wanted to get laid.
Within an hour of agreeing to "be his girl" I began contemplating the best way to break up with him. The problem was, he hadn't done anything overtly breakup-worthy, and I couldn't really give him a solid reason... I felt lost.

Alternating between self-loathing and guilt, I told him we weren't going to be having sex for a while until I "got comfortable" in the relationship, and, ever eager to please, he and his abs agreed. We'd spend our time getting to know each other better. I mean, I hadn't even been to his house yet! How could I possibly have sex with someone when I don't know what their house looks like, right?

I really, really wish I'd actually stuck to this rule, because there was a good reason I hadn't been invited over. His House is where his Crazy came out, and it came out swinging.

After telling me for weeks that he knows how "clean I am," and how he didn't want me to be grossed out by his bachelor pad, he finally invited me over. He insisted on staying on the phone with me to give me turn-by-turn directions over each and every speedbump, I arrive at his house. He owns a home, right? Bonus points, right?
Spoiler Alert: WRONG.

I see his car for the first time in the light of day, and I see an NRA sticker on one side and a Bush sticker on the other. I feel nauseous.

He takes me in, holding my hand as he shows me around while his frenzied dogs (who he's kissing on their doggy mouths) claw and scratch blood from my bare legs as they leap repeatedly. Their incessant barking gets maddening, so he ushers them into another room and closes the door on them as echoes of Son of Sam rampage on a shooting spree through my brain.

He suddenly takes both my hands- he's literally trembling.
"I'm sorry," he says. "It's just that I've never had any girls over here other than my mom."
"I want you to be happy here- this is your home."
He shows me the bedroom, wiping tears out of his eyes and proudly proclaiming that the only other girl in his bed had been his mother.

"Wait- what?"
He tells me that "he'd had a rough time" and his mother had come to sleep with him.
I immediately leaf through my mental calendar to pick an appropriate expiration date for our relationship. Sooner the better.
The only problem is his birthday is coming up and he's been so vocal about how his ex had dumped him right before his birthday one year. He actually makes me promise to not do that. Maybe he's kidding, but at this point I'm a little scared of him and how fragile he is, so I can't risk it. I mean Christ- he wants me to meet his parents. I start to hate myself for being with him and being too chickenshit to hurt him.

I don't spend the night that night (or any other night) because that day he tells me about his childhood. How he'd grown up training for athletic events and never had any real friends. How his parents are hoarders, and how he slept on the floor next to his dad for most of his life because there was never any room on the bed. How he'd been pushed, driven to physical perfection, to the point of multiple breakdowns. How college had been his only escape. And then drinking.

He tells me he's been in Alcoholics Anonymous, which is news to me because we've had plenty of wine with the dinners I'd cook and he never mentioned it. He tells me he's in the NRA. He tells me he voted for Bush.

This is how I felt hearing that.

It's over- I just have to let him down easy, after his birthday. It's in a week. I can do this.

He begs to spend the night at my place, and I agree but make damn certain I don't take anything that night. No more Ambien around him- I no longer trust him. But he's literally whining, and I'm exhausted and emotionally drained. Sure, why not- sleep here, because he has to work early in the morning and I don't want him driving home so far so late.

He tries to sleep next to me. "Sleep" is the best way I can describe it, but it's more like some sort of tortured wrestling match with himself.
Since I'm not drugging myself, I can witness him as he's literally writhing and twisting in my bed, growling like a wounded animal. At one point he flails an arm out and his knuckle makes contact with my head. I am annoyed but not injured. Later in the night, he makes a sudden roll towards me and his hand wraps around my throat. I am terrified.

The next morning I tell him we're not going to be sharing a bed any more, period.
He immediately grows agitated, wild-eyed and red.
He tells me he'll do anything. He offers to take some of my Ambien. He offers to let me tie him down.
I decline.
Then he gets really upset and starts tearing up. Ugh. I HATE it when guys cry.
He gets desperate, begging me, telling me he'll get some rope so I can tie him down and his night terrors won't affect me.
Citing "potential fire hazard" as an excuse for not imprisoning a man in my bed, I am officially completely turned off.
By now, all the abs in the world can't save him. He looks about this sexy to me:

A couple days later I find out he's a smoker. I would never knowingly be in a relationship with someone so willing to hurt themselves like that. The Stunt Man has been hiding this fact from me because he knows how much I hate it. He swears he'll quit smoking for me. I tell him not to, that it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter, because I am not planning on keeping him around. (I'm a dick.) I told him he should quit for himself and not for me.

I reach out to a friend I used to work with. She dated him for almost a year, and might have some advice about how to break up with him. However, I can't get ahold of her and her number is no longer working...

I have to wait to break up with him until after his birthday because he's turning 30, and wants to commemorate the occasion by setting himself on fire and jumping on a pogo stick long enough to make it into the Guinness World Records. I'd hate him to get hurt because he was in some sort of funk on my account. After all, he'll be engulfed in flames.
But it's kinda cool, right? Fire stunts and extreme sports?
Like I said, this is mostly a story about how dumb I was.

His birthday comes and goes, and he survives the stunt despite Guiness assuring him they want no part of this particular category. He has a great night. The next night I take him out to dinner. He tells me he loves me. I thank him politely as I'm scripting The Talk.

Driving home from dinner, night-time construction began on the street we'd been driving on, and retracing my route home meant a strange left turn amidst dozens of cones which had not been there earlier.

"Is this the right way?" I ask.
"Yes," he says.
"But look at the cones- we're going the wrong way- this looks like a one-way street" I insist.
"No, it's fine" he assures me.
In the distance I see oncoming headlights and have to quickly reverse into an alley to save us from getting into a head-on collision.
He was dead certain we were fine, but my instincts were right and we were totally in danger.
Point made, Universe. I'd break it off tomorrow.

So I do, gently, telling him I'm not ready for a relationship after all. He takes it surprisingly well and says he'll wait for me. I strongly encourage him not to. He posts dramatic vows of staunch patience on facebook, accompanied by links of Jason Mraz's "I won't give up on you," until I beg him to stop. I promise we're still friends, and to prove it, I'd take him to a party the next week. Seemed like a good idea at the time.

This particular party is a gathering of artists who're seeking models to be photographed for some artwork as part of a book about mythical creatures. The Stuntman is game, so he arrives at my house for me to drive us to the party. Before we go, I hand him a bag with his toothbrush in it. Some sort of shadow passes through his eyes as he takes the bag from me. He does not speak on the way to the party, and sits brooding in silence behind dark sunglasses at dusk.

He immediately hits the bar at the party, downing a double rum and coke. They paint The Stuntman up like some boggy monster, a legendary creature famous for dragging unsuspecting swimmers to watery graves. He's greenish and wearing whited-out contacts, and seems to be having a good time until he begins stumbling. Soon he can barely stand and the photographer calls me over to collect him. He's mumbling incoherently and I lead him to the bathroom to get cleaned up and get dressed.

Half-speaking, half-growling, I can barely understand him through the bathroom door, but I get the impression he's trying to get dressed without washing off any bodypaint. I try to tell him to take his time, get cleaned up, take those contacts out because I know he can't see very well, but I'm interrupted by the crashing sound of glass smashing as he stumbles into the sliding glass door of the shower he's not using.

"Are you OK?!?"
"Just come in, come in," ...shit. He's crying again. God I'm an asshole.
I reluctantly step in and he grabs my arms, pulling me into him. He's smaller than me but stronger by far and green.
Staring at me with painted yellow teeth and white eyes, he's trying to tell me something but he can't speak clearly and I'm scared.
"Let go of me," I said, and he squeezes me harder.
I use a simple martial-arts twist to free my arms and jet out of the bathroom, telling him to get dressed, we're leaving.
Jesus, he'd only had the equivalent of two drinks, right? Fuck.

He gets in my car, green paint everywhere, still growling like some mini-hulk. It'd be comical if it wasn't tragic. Like this, but way way sadder:

I tell him he needs to take the lenses out before he drives home- that he can't see very well since they don't let enough light in.
Proving my point, he asks me where we are, tells me we're lost and he has no idea where we are.
We're a half-mile from my house, on a street he takes every day to work.
I don't want him coming inside. He's weird tonight. Weirder than usual.

He stumbles out of my car. I don't understand how he's acting so drunk- it's been 4 hours since he had that double. I ask him if he's taking any kinds of medications that might have interacted with the alcohol. He can't answer me clearly and now he's begging to come up and use my bathroom before his long drive home.
Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck DINGDINGDINGDINGDING Oh nowwww I hear it.

I tell him he can, but he has to promise to take those contact lenses out while he's up there. He agrees, and while the door is shut I text my friend, begging for help. This is Rob, the same friend who introduced us- he kind of owes me.
This amazing friend leaves the party he's at and drives 30 miles as fast as he can.
Sure enough, my Green Goblin is refusing to leave and literally making animal sounds when Rob bursts through the door.
By now the Stunt Man has gone into FULL freak mode, telling me he's had the FBI google me and they know all about me, and how he's also secretly part of the CIA and his dad is so disappointed with me.

Thank god for Rob.

I leave the boys to talk and finally my friend talks the Stunt Man into driving home. Rob follows him home, makes sure he gets inside, and texts me the All's Well at 5:30am.

I take out the knife I've secreted in my pocket, bolt the door and sleep easier that night.

...I get multiple texts from the Stunt Man. He tells me he misses me. He tells me he's "working on the set of "Supernatural," and that I should watch episode blahblah of season such-and-such because it proves that he was so right and I was wrong and soooo right." These texts come at 3 and 4 in the morning. "Supernatural" shoots in Canada. There's no way he's there, because his car is parked next to mine the next day when I leave my job.

This parking "coincidence" happens more than a few times and I'm complaining to a coworker when a manager overhears and tells me to take it to the police, just in case.

I send The Stuntman an email, telling him I was blocking any calls, texts or emails from him and that if I saw his car or him near me again I'd go to the cops. I told him not to respond to the email, and he very graciously did not.

About a month later, I run into his Ex- the one who broke up with him right before his birthday. The one I'd tried to call. I told her my story and she laughs, pulling out her phone and sharing a mile-long string of texts from him along the same vein.
The reason I couldn't call her was because she's had to change her number because of him. She'd also had to get a restraining order against him, since he was texting her things like "you and your baby have to leave the house, there's a bomb in it, my CIA team and I will sweep your house, get to a safe place and I'll text you the all-clear."

Jesus. I'd dodged a bigger bullet than I thought.

Then she shows me all the texts he'd been sending her about how he'd bought her an engagement ring, how he was going to propose. Despite her restraining order, these proposal texts had been sent by him during the time he and I had been dating.

Sigh. Ya think you can trust a guy...

I haven't seen or heard from him since, other than word-of-mouth that he's settled down and quite happy in a new relationship.

Phew. My god I was dumb. But here's what I learned:

It would take approximately two more bad decisions before I started living by those rules, and those two decisions involved the millionaire and the pilot from previous blogs. By then, I'd finally exhausted my capacity for idiocy. I became much smarter, and I stopped needing Ambien because the decisions I made during the day let me sleep just fine at night, alone, in my own bed.
I became comfortable in my own skin. I learned to enjoy being by myself, single, whole within my own skin.

Which, naturally, is when I was finally ready to meet my soul mate.

Friday, April 25, 2014

LA Stories: Sweet Dreams and Flying Machines (in pieces)

When I was 8, and living in Omaha, I saw the friendly neighborhood tom cat attack a baby rabbit from the nearby woods. I loved this cat- hell, I love just about all animals- but he was killing this ball of bunny fluff. I don't know if rabbits can scream, but in my memory it's screaming, terrified. I scared the cat away, wrapped the bunny in my sweater and rushed to a neighbor's house. The lady who lived there was a vet, and as she took the blood-soaked bundle from me, she promised to do everything she could to save the bunny.
Yeah, he totally looked like that guy.

I came back a few hours later to check on it, and found the tiny animal backed up, nose quivering, into a corner of an empty aquarium. The vet had told me it didn't look good, but I could hold it if I wanted. I scooped the trembling, warm body out of the tank and cradled it against my body. I held it for a moment when I sensed it going limp in my arms. I looked down into its glassy little eyes, and, just for an instant, looked back at me before they glazed over and dulled.

I watched as the little flickering spark behind the eyes faded into nothing, and the rabbit died in my arms.

I cried for hours. My mom held me, her own baby bunny, in her arms and told me all the soothing comforting things moms say when their child witnesses Death for the first time. It was the worst, saddest thing I'd ever seen in my young life.

In my ongoing effort to Never Date Actors, Ever, I continued "online shopping" and came across The Pilot.
The Pilot is 6'1'', slender, with a wicked sense of humor and a vague resemblance to Daniel Tosh. SOLD. He texted me constantly- he was a master of sarcasm and very attentive. He made a massive effort to get my attention, and he got it.
We set up a date, met officially, and hit it off. He's funny, smart, successful, and a competitive triathlon enthusiast. So far so good.

But the best part about The Pilot was how he looked at me. Whenever I'd meet up with him, his eyes would light up and sparkle like two greedy diamonds. He knows he's funny, but he thinks I'M hilarious. He told me he'd never met a woman who could keep up with him, with his sense of humor, get and appreciate his jokes. Sure, whatever- I was just thrilled to be LOOKED AT like that. I wanted to be coveted. That light in his eyes made me feel like some precious object.

That's right babe. SPECIAL.

Over 4 or 5 dates, I grew to like him. I liked all the benefits that came with dating a person with a "real job," and I loved his razor-sharp wit. The only part I wasn't crazy about was that most of his jokes were mean, or really offensive. Don't get me wrong- there's a time a place for that, for sure- but in moderation. Sure, I might crack a joke about the guy convulsing in his wheelchair, but I'll deliver the joke with rolled eyes and some sort of hang-dog posture, or use inflection to imply some sort of remorse, like I'm AWARE that I'm totally going to hell. The entire point of laughing at stuff we're not supposed to laugh at is to take away the brevity of the situation. The Pilot seemed to be missing this crucial element in his humor, but I figured time would tell if he was genuinely funny or just kind of an asshole.

(Hint: he's kind of an asshole.)

The other weird thing about The Pilot was that as much as he liked to joke about various insensitive subjects, he CONSTANTLY would joke about how small and disappointing his penis was. It was his favorite thing to mention, and he brought it up all. the. time. Like, REALLY pushing the issue. I assured him I didn't care, but I'll admit his never-ending referrals made me curious. Was he kidding? Was there a possibility he was NOT kidding? Like a poorly drawn illustration outside a Freakshow Tent, the advertising worked and now I wanted to know what the buzz was all about.

I was dating The Pilot while taking a regular nighttime regimen of prescribed Ambien, which is notorious for aiding and abetting bad decisions. I was also still at a point in my divorce recovery where I'd not yet learned to sleep by myself, and I'd rather sleep next to Someone, Anyone, than sleep alone. After some late night video games and probably too much to drink, The Pilot invited me to spend the night at his superluxe townhouse. The promise of morning omelets was on the table, and I acquiesced, with the caveat that there would be absolutely ZERO fooling around in bed. That I was taking Ambien. That it affected my decisions and my memory. And that no matter what I said AFTER I took it, I did not want to get intimately involved with him. He promised me that that was not a problem, and he'd be a gentleman.

Now, hold on to your seats, because here's a shocker: I'm an idiot. And he's not a gentleman. (What a tweest!)

We fooled around that night- no sex, but close enough for the dramatic reveal that HOLY SHIT HE WAS NOT KIDDING ABOUT HIS PENIS. I vaguely remember him apologizing for it and me assuring him that it really didn't matter, that it wasn't a big deal.
I guess that was the wrong thing to say, but what else can you do when confronted with something like that?
I suggested he think of it like those little Vienna Cocktail Sausages that sit on fancy crackers at a party. Small, but still entertaining?

Not this bad, but close.

Ambien sunrises are weird enough, but I knew the lines had been pretty blurred in the wee hours of the morning.
The sun came up, and The Pilot climbed out of bed and started dressing in his lycra bike shorts. I realized there would be no omelette.
"Walp," he says, "I got 15 miles to ride, so..."
He wouldn't look me in the eye. I caught a glimpse of his profile in the bike shorts and wondered if he was somehow embarrassed?

I was confused. I had no idea where we stood. He'd wanted me, right? Enough to directly violate a trust I'd given him?
That must mean he wants a relationship with me, right? (Forgive me, I'm really stupid in the mornings.)
"Hey, no problem- and if you like going alone, I'll head on out- but if you want some company, I'm happy to go with you. Either way, no worries."
He perked up. "Really? You'd go 15 miles with me?"
"Sure, why not."

We make awkward small talk while I pick up a bike, and head to the trail.
We make awkward small talk while we bike 15 miles. FIFTEEN. MILES.
There is no mention of his ridiculously small penis on this morning. Odd- it was usually his favorite subject.
At the end of the trail, he tells he he's going to go to his swimming lesson. (Triathletes, right?!?) I wish him good luck and thanked him for the bike ride. For the first time all day, he looks me in the eye- and it's cold. Dull and glassy. Like a dead rabbit.

"See you later," he says, and PATS ME ON THE BACK GOODBYE.

Wow. Thanks pal. Buddy. I half-sit, half-stand on my bike, absolutely mackerel-smacked. Hadn't we gotten closer last night? Hadn't I just biked 15 fucking miles with this guy? So HE can joke about his dick, but I can't?

Got it.

He stopped calling and texting after that. I think I must've texted him a day later, because the last communication I received from a guy who used to text me non-stop was the tell-tale fatal missive...


The light had faded. The spark was dead, gone. It was over. And worst of all, there had been no omelette. AGAIN. God dammit.
Sweet dreams and Flying Machines in pieces on the ground.

As I watched him pedal off, I packed the bike in the backseat of my convertible, a day older, a little wiser and sore as hell for all the wrong reasons. I remembered that little bunny dying in my arms, and this time, though there would be no tears on my part, I was still sad that The Pilot's insecurity was our undoing. Maybe we could've been good together, maybe not- but we'd never get the chance to find out. Not because his penis was small, but because he was a little dick.

The next person I dated owned his own airplane and had several pilots on call. I made certain to never ask about their penis size.

Monday, April 14, 2014

LA Stories: Gold-digging and Other STDs

Everyone has a price, and friends, mine's pretty bargain bin- the things I've done for money would shock and amaze you. I've been a phone book, a clown (an EQUITY clown though, dammit!) a flamingo, a pearl diver and a fluid mopper on a porn set. Hi mom!
Still, all things considered, my conscience is clear- because no matter how low I've set the bar for my pride and comfort level, no one can buy out my dreams. They're not for sale.
This is how I know, in Two Parts.


Twice, I was challenged by men who tried to buy me.
The first was in Los Angeles, during the Starving Days. A good friend had let me take over her job as a receptionist at an architect firm while she went on vacation, and during my 2 weeks at her desk, I became chummy with the head of the firm.
Now, perhaps I should clarify- this wasn't "an" architect firm.
It was "THE" architect firm.

And "THE" Architect in question was going through a rough divorce.
Coincidentally, so was I. So you can see where this might go...

The Architect, a handsome older man in his mid-sixties, learned that I was a personal assistant to other fancy people, and asked me to invoke my super powers to find him a house to stay in while the divorce was going through.
Something low key, understated. Kind of a bachelor pad.
He gave me an $800,000 ballpark figure to work with.

While he was drafting and cruising around on his new Harley, I house-hunted online for him, chose my top favorite options, and showed them to him.
He loved what I found, and sent me to visit the ones he liked best. He paid me a very generous office rate for my time, and was thrilled when I came back armed with photos, videos, and a lengthy list of pros and cons for each option.

I liked this man. He was warm, funny, generous. Reminded me of my dad. And like my father, we bonded over motorcycles, and I showed him photos of my old bike back in Florida. He supplies the entire office with catered bagels and lox every friday.
I wanted to make him happy, and he was really nice to me. He selected a home, bought it (cash) and moved in right away.

After my last day working for him, he asked if I could meet him for "celebration drinks" downtown.
I like drinks, and celebrating. I was single. Why the fuck not, sure. One drink. I hadn't been "out" in a while and I was looking forward to not sitting at home worrying where my next paycheck would come from.

He gave me an address and I drove in circles downtown looking for the restaurant, finally pulling into a hotel to ask for directions. There were no street numbers to be seen on these schmancy high rises.
The valet very kindly informed me that I was already AT the address I was looking for, and that they were expecting me.
Uh oh...

They took my car, it'd already been paid for, and sent me to the elevators with instructions to go to the top floor.
And so I watched Los Angeles expand beneath my feet as I was whisked straight to the top of the tallest building in the city: The Four Seasons.

I emerge from the elevator bay and there's The Architect, waiting at a table in the gorgeous bar area outside of Wolfgang Puck's.
Yep! This guy!

We have the drink. A (singular) drink, and nothing more, and I high five him on his new home and rise to leave when he asks if I'd like dinner- no, no, I say, I couldn't possibly...
But he waves his arm and a waiter arrives. Yes, yes, his table is ready, would he like to be seated?

My stomach roars as it clamshells in on itself. My paycheck was already spent on rent, so I didn't eat that day. Sigh. Yes, let's get seated.
I lie and tell him I'm not that hungry, but he assures me that not only is he insisting on picking up the check, but I simply MUST have some chilean sea bass.
Oh. Well if I have to. My stomach, hell-bent on devouring itself, agrees.

The sea bass is amazing. And the korean tacos. And the springrolls. And the duck.
Yep, yep, all amazing. I try to enjoy it, knowing it's my last good meal for a while.

The Architect touches my hand and runs some fingers down my arm as I reach for yet another dinner roll. The food is to die for, but I'm distracted by my father's voice echoing in my head (possibly resonating up from the ever-narrowing hollows in my sea-bass-stuffed gut) telling me "there's no such thing as a free meal."
This meal was certainly not free- the check came and I tried to snag it from him to cover the tip (which would mean bouncing a check but better than this sickening feeling of indebtedness.)

I saw the bill: $425.
Holy shit.

He won't hear of me covering the tip and and waves me off when I plead to contribute to the sum. The Architect writes a room number on the bill and sends it off with our waiter, then turns to me.
Here it comes. I brace myself and he says:
"So, I've got the penthouse for the night- it's huge. Would you like to come see it?"
No, no I can't. Early morning. Thanks anyway. I just, you know.
"I had to try, right?" He grins at me as I retreat awkwardly, stumbling backwards in heels.
I wish him congrats again AND I'M GONE.
I kick myself in the elevator- indebted, graceless, and now doomed to breakfastlessness.

But integrity intact.

I sent two thank you notes for that meal. One to The Architect's new address, and one to my Father.


Back in Orlando, no longer starving and in a much stronger place emotionally, I had sworn off dating actors and was "shopping online" to see what was available. There was a lot to choose from, but I wanted the exact opposite of an actor. Just to see what it was like.

I selected a Lawyer.
Seemed like a good choice at the time- tall, blonde, physically fit, close to his family. Why not. Sure, he's kind of a gym rat and losing his hair, but this is a deliberate effort on my part to refrain from dating people for superficial reasons. I will try my damndest to make it work.

We meet at a wine bar and he's reasonably cute. Sweet, intelligent, the right age, been married and learned from his mistakes, still friends with his ex, all plusses. He's keen to be in a relationship, like, RIGHT AWAY. He wants a wife and a family, and is in a whole hellofa hurry. Aside from that, though, he's definitely 2nd date worthy.

The Lawyer walks me to my car, parked very near his, which is some fancy model or other.
He points out that he's trading it in for a newer model as soon as he can, which makes me wonder what his marriage must've been like- but he kisses me suddenly, like, inappropriately passionately, like he's trying to recreate a scenario in which I'm welcoming him home after a war.
I see the thought bubble over his head- in his mind, he's clearly dressed as a sailor and I'm the nurse.

It dawns on me that perhaps he's a little drunk- then I judge him for having a liver inferior to mine.
Then I chide myself for judging. This whole date is an exercise in not being superficial, right? I need to get over it. Suddenly he says, in all earnesty, "I'm gonna marry you."
Ohhhhkay. So this is what drunk lawyers are like. Still an improvement over actors.
As he hug-smothers me in the parking lot, I'm forced to inhale and I smell this sweet, strange smell on him. Somewhere in my mind a tiny alarm sounds.
Shit. Well, I'd already said yes to the second date. Whoops.

Date #2 is a lunch date- he asks me to meet him downtown at his building.
"Which building is your building?" I ask.
"The one with my name on it."
(It's the REALLY phallic one in the middle.)

I meet him and in the clear light of day, he's fine. He's smart, driven, loves his job, and seems really friendly. He was very polite to our server. That's important.
We take a quick walk after sushi and I see some fluffy little baby ducks.
Joking, I wonder aloud how many ducklets might fit in my mouth at once, and he stares at me with a horrified expression.
OK, so maybe we're not on the same page in regards to a sense of humor... But he's kind of redeemed himself in the way he speaks and how lovingly he talks about his family. We talk about karate and how much he loves the gym. Like, LOVES the gym. He rolls up his shirt sleeves to show me some well-defined muscles. I'm used to working around superheroes, so I'm probably not as impressed as he'd like me to be, but there's that smell again- like sweet almonds... It is the smell of something wrong, but I still can't quite place it. Regardless, he's charming and kind, and there's really no good reason to not see him again.
Wait for it.

Date #3 is at my place. I cook for him, and we chat about families.
He wants me to meet his, soon.
"Oh, and would I mind keeping my opinions about women's rights, gay issues and gun control to myself if his father asks?"
Wait, what? Absolutely not- I warn him that I have a penchant for speaking my mind, regardless of who's asking. I arch a brow and fold my arms. Red fucking flags all over the field.
He changes tack and, since we're discussing sensitive issues, inquires how soon I think is too soon to be physical in a relationship.
Um. That kind of depends- I tell him I've had a chance to try a few different methods in terms of rushing things, one-night-things, and things in between.
I tell him I wanna be slow. Like, glacially slow.
No more actors, no more craziness. I wanna be smart about this.
"That's good," he says. "I'm glad to hear that- because I have herpes, and I want to get married soon and since I hate condoms, I expect my wife to share my herpes."
ON DATE #3?!?
"Okayyyy," I say, trying to process.
I thank him for his honesty, and wrack my brain trying to recall if that kiss on Date #1 has doomed me to anything.
"What are you thinking? Is everything OK? Is this a dealbreaker?!? Please don't say it's a dealbreaker!"
"Um." (Translation: "It's a dealbreaker.")
We say goodnight shortly afterwards. I thank him for his honesty, and he responds by absolutely pinning me down to Date #4. Uggghhh.

I've already made up my mind Date #4 will have to be the last one- partially because of the herpes and partially because he absolutely reeks of desperation.
OK mostly because of the herpes.
"I expect my wife to share my herpes..."


I stall as long as possible, but the inevitable Date #4 rolls around.
It's at his house. I say "house," but it's a small palace.
He gives me an enthusiastic tour- pointing out there's where the kid's rooms will be. There's where I could have a writing room, or a study. Whatever I wanted, just name it. Gulp.
He starts cooking ME dinner now. It's a fancy dinner.
As he invites me to join him on his airplane for a quick trip to New York City, I'm reminded of another fancy meal that cost me way too much.

Melancholy sets in. I know I have to tell him the truth at some point that evening. He's a nice guy, it's a shame- but I don't want to be his wife. I need a guy who gets my sense of humor. And won't riddle me with disease.

He'd been at the gym shortly before I arrived, and was wearing his gym clothes. I help him prep the chopped veggies, and as he reached a muscular arm across me I'm finally close enough to see it:
His skin is grey-blue in certain areas, and flaking apart. As his arm nears my face I smell the sweet almond smell and it hits me...
I am smelling his decaying skin cells.
The man is literally rotting alive in his empty tomb of a home.
Panic sets in and I start talking, quickly.

I tell him about an email I got that day- an invitation to an audition in Los Angeles. If I get the job I'll have to move out there, and I'm not up for a long-distance relationship.
Words tumble out of my mouth as I try to repress my horror at his skin.
Is this some side effect of herpes? Is it from steroids? Hair loss, skin issues, compulsive sweating, mood issues...
Every Valtrex Advertisement I've ever seen hurricanes through my mind as I process.

I'm spitting words out as fast as my whirling water-wheel mind can spin them. Excuses, explanations, reasons, stuff, things. As I speak, the light, once blazing behind his twinkling eyes, fades until he regards me with a dull, flat expression.
"So, there's nothing I can do to get you to stay here?"
"And you won't skip this audition?"
I shake my head and look down. "No."
He sets his fork down and takes my head in his sicky-sweet hands.
"I could give you everything you need. You know that, right? You'd never want for anything."
I gulp. "I know."
He breathes. "Everything I have isn't enough for you?"
I kiss him, once. Last time. "I have to write. I have to write in LA."

He picks his fork up and resumes eating. "Well I guess that's that," he says.
He's right. By the time I'm home at my apartment, he's unfriended me on facebook.
A mutual friend reports that he's asking girls out at the gym two days later.

I recently heard he's married- to a gym girl. I hope they're really happy. He's an honest, kind, ridiculously wealthy man, and if she's cool with sharing "what he has," I wish them all the best.

As for me, I'm happy. I don't have an airplane. I don't have sea bass. But I have this laptop and these stories, and I'm typing them out in the city of my dreams next to my wonderful boyfriend as he writes, too.
He smells amazing, he's disease-free, and the answer is 2.5.
He can fit 2.5 hypothetical ducklings in his mouth.
(He gets it.)