It’s Tuesday evening, mid-June. A TV mounted on the wall at the back of the pizzeria plays the Thunder vs. Heat, Game Four of the NBA finals. I’m pretending to watch the game over his shoulder, but really, I’m sneaking glances at him while he eats the last slice of pizza. There’s an empty pizza tray and a couple beers between us. My right leg is shaking.
“So is that all you wanted to tell me?” he asks.
“No,” I say. “There’s something else.”
“I thought so,” he says. “You sounded like you really wanted to talk to me.”
We sit in silence for ten seconds.
He shrugs. “Uh, so…?”
“Hold on, I’m not ready to say it yet. This is hard.”
“Hard? Damn, this is gonna be good!”
“Not bad hard, it’s just hard to say. Whew, I didn’t think it was gonna be this hard. And now I’m building it up too much.”
“Exactly,” he says, straight-faced. “Just say it.”
“I mean, it’s just really bad timing,” I say.
“Well, because you hate me right now.” Over the weekend, I had made a really shitty comment to him, and even after two days of trying to explain myself, I can tell he’s not completely over it. Shit, I pretty much had to beg him to meet me here.
He shakes his head. “I don’t hate you.” His tone is very matter-of-fact. “Just say it.”
“No, it’s not a big deal. It’s just…hold on. Give me a minute.” I take a deep breath.
Our server comes over and grabs the pizza tray. “Can I get you guys anything else?”
“Just the check,” he says, and she walks away.
“Well, I love you,” I blurt out.
He stares at me, so I keep talking. “That’s all. I just love you. And I told you a while ago that if I fell in love with you, I would tell you to your face. So I’m telling you. To your face. Right now.”
He doesn’t even blink. “Thank you,” he says, and he takes another bite of pizza. That’s it. It’s such an anti-climactic moment, I’m not sure how to deal with it.
If this moment were a scene in a movie, this would be my voiceover: Oh, no problem! You’re welcome for loving you. Really, no trouble at all. Anything I can do to be of service to you.
We sit in silence for a little while – I’m not sure how long. I guess as long as it takes to listen to the words “Thank you” echo back and forth across my mind 7,012 times. The server drops off our check, and it occurs to me that I really timed that “I love you” poorly. Now I have to sit here and try to make idle conversation while we wait for her to run the tab.
“So my friend John is moving to San Diego,” my mouth says. “He got an internship at UTSD.”
“Oh nice!” He gives me a high five across the table. “I used to date a girl that was going there. That’s a really good program.”
“Yeah, well, that John, he’s a smart fella!” Did I really just use the word ‘fella’ in a sentence? I laugh out loud.
“Nothing.” I’m not at all satisfied with how this went down. If this were a movie, it’d be so much more of a big deal.
But in reality, the moment I tell a man to his face that I love him is glossed-over, forgotten even. I have to bring it up again just to make absolute certain it happened. “So you probably already knew that I loved you,” I say.
He shakes his head, carefree and easy. “Naw,” he says. “I didn’t know that.” Jesus, we might as well be talking about how there’s a new Laundromat opening near my house.
“Oh. Okay. Well.” I shrug. “Now you do.”
I’m sitting in Planned Parenthood talking to a nurse. I’m already annoyed. My birth control runs out two days before my health insurance kicks in, and I “make too much money” to receive any Planned Parenthood benefits, so long story short, I have to pay $100 for something that I can get for free in three days.
The nurse asks me the same basic questions as in any women’s health clinic: all oddly personal sex stuff to gauge your level of responsibility. I understand the need for what they do – young women who come in there might not know about sex, and it’d be good for them to have an adult to talk to about it.
Still, every time I have to go through one of these Q & A sessions, I try to think of a shortcut to the end so they’ll just give me what I came for without getting all up in my business. I want to tell her, “Look, Lady, I’m ‘bout to be 30, and I’ve never been pregnant or had an STD. Can you just give me the goddamn pills?”
But no, she presses on. “Are you currently having sex?”
“With one or multiple partners?”
“I see,” she says. “And is your partner having sex with other partners?”
“No. Uh, yes? Shit, I don’t know. Probably. Who am I kidding? Yes, definitely. Probably. Let’s go with probably.” I laugh. “Look, I don’t know.”
If this were a scene in a movie, the nurse would’ve said something to make me feel more comfortable, something like, “Girl, I been there!” Then she would’ve given me a high five.
But it’s reality, so she just stares at me, says, “I see,” and then looks back down at her endless list of goddamn questions. “Have you had unprotected sex within the last month?”
It takes every ounce of self-control I have not to say, “Bitch, now you just being nosey!”
I’m in my car driving one of my comic friends, Solomon Georgio, back to his house.
“Look, I’ll probably just die alone,” I say. “And I’m fine with it. I’m not gonna find anybody, I’ll be single forever, and I’ll die alone. It’s totally cool.”
“Why do you gotta say stuff like that?” he asks.
“Oh, I don’t mean it,” I say. “I just think that my life is a movie, so I’m trying to say the turning point line that the main character says in the movie. You know, the line that triggers the chain of events that end up making her life become suddenly awesome? The part where she’s pretty much given up, and she talks about it right before she ends up getting everything she wants.”
Let me break in here to explain something. When I say that I believe my life is a movie, I don’t mean that I think the world revolves around me. I mean that I think everything that happens in real life is relevant and symbolic, a chain of events that, when linked together, tell a greater story, one that doesn’t have an end yet.
This belief has been constant throughout my life. As a result of it, I sometimes spew out sentences that sound like epic lines of dialogue, and I apply symbolism to every single thing that happens around me, so believing my life is a movie has only resulted in me looking like a weirdo a couple times.
Like that one time, back when I was working in the Dean’s office at OU. We had mistakenly sent a flower delivery man away, and the Dean, worried, told us that those flowers were for his wife. I stood up from my chair, threw my notebook and pen on the ground, yelled the words, “My whole life has been leading up to this moment!” and sprinted out of the room to chase down the flowers. I brought them back a few minutes later to reluctant and sparse applause. True story.
“Oh,” Solomon says. “So you’re saying we’re acting in the romantic comedy of your life right now.”
“Well, in that case, I know my role. I’m the pro-active gay friend that expresses way too much interest in your love life.”
“I’ll call you later. Be all like, ‘Girl, I know of a hip party tonight.’” He does a series of gay man head shakes and snaps before continuing. “Honey, we need to get you laid. I’ll be right over. I’m bringing some mimosas and a case full of outfits for you to try on. Why? ‘Cause I’m a stereotypical gay man.’”
Now I’m cracking up.
“You know,” I say, “My life would be a million times sadder if I wasn’t constantly surrounded by funny people.”
It’s an afternoon in early June, and I’m deleting his number from my phone.
This isn’t the first time I’ve deleted someone, but I gotta admit, it feels a little wrong this time. A few months before, I’d actually promised him that no matter what, we’d stay friends, but I’m fed up with existing in a gray area. “It’s not a big deal,” I tell myself. “And I tried not to delete him. He won’t care if we’re not friends.”
The logical part of me knows that’s not true, but the part of me that acts impulsively on every emotion I have the second I have it overrides that logic, and so I erase him from existence.
I don’t just delete his contact info – I delete every call to or from him in my call history. I delete our pages and pages and pages of text conversations, the story of us. I delete any photos I have with him in them, any remnants of him in my phone. It’s the most efficient deletion I’ve ever performed.
There, I think. Now we’re not friends. Gone.
Two hours later, I’m sitting at the bar at the Hollywood Improv watching the Thunder play and drowning in whiskey when my phone vibrates, a text message. I look at the number. It’s him. I can tell by the area code.
I try not to check the message. I try to hold out for as long as I can. In reality, maybe 30 seconds pass before I open the text, but when I get to the screen, it’s blank. The only thing on the screen is the time, 5:58 p.m., and the number of the man that I had just a couple hours before deleted from existence. Huh. That’s weird.
So I text him back. “Hey,” I write. “Did you by any chance send me a blank text just now?”
“Nope,” he writes.
No? But then how did this happen?
If this were a movie, this would be the moment when the main character gets a second chance to correct a stupid mistake.
I text him again: “If I call you right now, will you answer?”
“Of course, doofus,” he writes.
He picks up on the second ring. “Hey Baby Girl!”
“That’s funny,” I say. “So you really didn’t just text me?”
“Well…uh, because I deleted your number from my phone. I deleted all our text history and everything. Then, two minutes ago, I got a blank text from you. Weird, right?”
“Whoa,” he says. “That is pretty weird. Wait, you deleted me?”
“Yeah, but the point is, I’m putting you back in.” I figure I spend so much time looking for symbolism in the world around me, I’d be a complete fool to ignore the one sign that actually means something obvious. That phantom text, well, it’s the Universe telling me, “No, Leah. Not this person. Not this number. Not this time.”
“I think my phone is telling me not to delete you,” I say.
“Good,” he says. “And hey, don’t do that again, okay?”
I work as an admin assistant at an elementary school in Culver City. Today, the 8th graders are graduating, and my boss lets me attend the graduation. Because I’ve only worked here for six weeks, I have very little attachment to these students, and quite frankly, I don’t give a fuck if anyone on the planet graduates from the 8th grade, but I’ll watch a 4th grade flute recital if it means I can get out of sitting at my desk for two hours.
The ceremony is pretty cheesy, a bit over-the-top emotional. The parents in the audience are boo-hooing at everything that happens. The teachers sitting around me are melting into puddles of goo because someone told some kid to reach for the stars. Meanwhile, I’m sitting unaffected, wondering how long it’s gonna be before we can tear into that cake.
Because the graduating class is so small, there’s a portion of the ceremony where each student picks their favorite teacher, and that teacher says something specific to the student, whether it be advice, sharing a memory, or encouragement for the future.
One of the students chooses Sharon, an Art and Literature teacher, to speak on his behalf. She ambles to the front of the stage, stands face to face with her 8th grader, and says this:
“You know, Ian, I’m honored that you would choose me to speak for you today. Because really, I should be up here thanking you. In all my 30 years of teaching, you gave me the best compliment that I’ve ever received. I don’t even know if you remember this, but when you were younger, you came to see me one day, and you told me, ‘No matter how bad my day is, I’m always happy when I’m with you.’”
“So today, Ian, I’d like to return that compliment. And I’d like to tell you that no matter how bad my day is, I’m always happy when I’m with you.”
That one gets me. I’m now just one of the many puddles of goo sitting in the audience, tears streaming down my face.
Sometimes I get so caught up in always trying to find the best words, I forget that the most eloquent way to say something is almost always the most simple.
If my life were a movie, then I would’ve had to miss this. Because moments like this only happen in real life.
I’m sitting in the House of Pies on a Saturday night, late June. I’m dressed up for the second time since I moved to L.A., wearing a skirt, heels, and his jacket because it’s cold in here. We’re eating breakfast and having a conversation about nothing in particular, mostly just about how a few weeks ago I told him that I love him.
“I feel stupid,” I say.
“Because I’m all dressed up. I did this for you, you know.”
“What? Come on! You did?”
“Yep. I did,” I say. “I wanted you to think I looked pretty.” And then I throw my head forward, smashing my face into the table. “Oh God, I’m too embarrassed to look at you right now.”
“Come on,” he says, laughing.
“Nope, not looking.”
“Leah, look at me.”
I sit up, my hair covering my eyes.
“Hey,” he says. “This, right now. It feels like a scene in a movie.”
I sigh, exasperated. “No, it’s not,” I say through my curtain of hair. “It’s reality. My life is not a movie. It just seems like one because I’m really dramatic about everything.”
I blow a chunk of hair out of my eyes, and the first thing I see is him laughing at me.
I smile. I can’t help it.
If this were a movie, he’d be long gone by now. Because in the movies, when you tell a man you love him, he either says he loves you back and makes out with you all disgustingly in a public place, or he runs away scared in the opposite direction, no exceptions. Here in real life, he doesn’t do either of those things.
I don’t pretend to know how this story ends. Truth is, making everything a movie has been my way of dealing with the fact that I don’t know a lot of things.
But I do know this: no matter how bad my day is, I’m always happy when I’m with him.