Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Romantic Interlude

Five years or so ago I submitted an article to the Los Angeles Times about an improbable and fairly entertaining romantic interlude I'd had, and luckily for me they actually published it.  They publish stories like this every Saturday in a column called "LA Affairs."

A few months ago I decided to send them another, as a way to promote my new book, Memoirs of a Starving Artist.  Unfortunately, this time around they didn't deem the article fit to publish, but with blogs these days, there's always an outlet, even if the circulation is not quite the same.  For anyone stopping by here, though, I thought I'd throw it on up.  So without further ado:

High-Flying Romance

            I knew from the first moment I laid eyes on her that she was out of my league.  I was a starving graduate student, wearing the requisite t-shirt, jeans and flip-flops as I waited to board a short flight from Oakland to Orange County.  She was gorgeous and well-dressed in a cream-colored business suit, wearing expensive jewelry and carrying packages from several high-end boutiques.
            Maybe it was because she was so unattainable that I decided to make a go of it.  I was tired of being all-consumed by fear and longing when I crossed paths with an attractive woman.  I’d had enough of the defeatism that seemed to haunt me.  This woman had no ring on her finger.  I was going to talk to her, I vowed to myself, no matter what it took.
            One thing I’d learned by this point in life was that the consequences of not talking to an attractive woman were often worse than the trauma of rejection.  If I made a respectful effort and was subsequently shot down, at least I’d tried.  It hadn’t worked out, but this was nothing to dwell on.
            It was when I failed to approach someone who’d caught my eye that I felt real pain.  In this case I would be absolutely certain that she was the perfect woman for me.  If only I’d had the nerve to say hello, a life of love and happiness would certainly have followed.  It was merely cowardice that prevented my one true chance at bliss.
            By the time the plane began to board, I had a plan worked out.  With no assigned seating on this airline, all I had to do was let the woman board first and then sit beside her.  Easy.
            It was only when I was walking down the aisle that I realized the flaw in my plan.  I spotted the woman sitting a third of the way back by the right hand window.  Another woman sat on the aisle, with one free seat between them.  Whole rows were completely empty all around.  How could I do it?  Taking that seat would mean complete humiliation!  But still, I had to sit there.  I’d made a vow.
            “I can do it, I can do it,” I chanted to myself as I drew near.  “I can’t do it!” my mind screamed as I took one step beyond.  “I have to do it!” I countered once again and then swung backwards, squeezing between them and plopping myself down in the seat.  “I’ve done it!” I thought happily, in sheer disbelief at my own audacity.
            By this stage the hardest part was over.  We struck up a conversation and carried it on all the way down the coast.  She ran a family business, she explained, with offices in Irvine and Oakland.  She commuted back and forth once a week.
            When the flight landed I summoned the courage to ask for her phone number.  I had to carry this through to the bitter end.  With some reluctance she gave me her business card and a few days later I called and left a message.  She never called me back.  It was just as well.  This was the ending I’d expected all along.  At least I’d had the courage to try.
            Exactly one year later a local magazine ran a short story I’d written, along with my photo.  A few days after that I received a voicemail.  “Hi, I met you on an airplane,” said a woman’s voice.  “I’m sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner but I just saw your story and wanted to tell you that I really liked it…” 
            When I called back we chatted for a while and then made plans to have dinner.  I drove my dilapidated pickup truck to her massive two-story house.  In her garage were a brand new SUV and a classic old convertible Mercedes.
            This girl was beautiful and intelligent.  She had a ton of money, with the house and the cars.  I had nothing but my truck and the clothes on my back.  I was roiled by insecurity. 
            The two of us dated a few more times after that.  We got along well but I could never overcome the simmering shame of my circumstances.  This was Southern California after all, where status and image are everything.  When she didn’t invite me inside by the third date I assumed I simply wasn’t good enough for her.  What else could explain her reluctance?  I never called her back.
            Some years later, curiosity got the best of me and I decided to look her up online.  A quick search revealed a column similar to this one in an Orange County newspaper.  She’d written about meeting her current husband, just a few months after I’d last seen her.
            What I learn now, and never knew then, was that she’d already been divorced at that time.  More importantly, I find out that behind the door I’d so badly wanted entry through were not two, not four, not six, but seven children!
            I’d been so terrified of my own inadequacies that I’d never considered she might be harboring secrets of her own.  Everyone has their insecurities in the end.  The trick, I’ve learned, lies in moving past them.


  1. Wow - what an interesting romance story. Happy new year, Kenneth. Good luck with your memoir. I really enjoyed reading it and will review for you asap. I'm in the midst of moving house right now so bear with me! :)

  2. That's a lot of children for one house. Probably better that you didn't go inside.

  3. Thanks Janice, Happy New Year to you. No worries about the review, good luck moving house. That's exciting!

    And David, yes, probably better that I didn't know...