Itâ€™s Tuesday evening, mid-June. Â A TV mounted on the wall at the back of the pizzeria plays the Thunder vs. Heat, Game Four of the NBA finals. Â Iâ€™m pretending to watch the game over his shoulder, but really, Iâ€™m sneaking glances at him while he eats the last slice of pizza. Â Thereâ€™s an empty pizza tray and a couple beers between us. Â My right leg is shaking.
â€œSo is that all you wanted to tell me?â€ he asks.
â€œNo,â€ I say. Â â€œThereâ€™s something else.â€
â€œI thought so,â€ he says. Â â€œYou sounded like you really wanted to talk to me.â€
We sit in silence for ten seconds.
He shrugs. Â â€œUh, soâ€¦?â€
â€œHold on, Iâ€™m not ready to say it yet. Â This is hard.â€
â€œHard? Â Damn, this is gonna be good!â€
â€œNot bad hard, itâ€™s just hard to say. Â Whew, I didnâ€™t think it was gonna be this hard. Â And now Iâ€™m building it up too much.â€
â€œExactly,â€ he says, straight-faced. Â â€œJust say it.â€
â€œI mean, itâ€™s just really bad timing,â€ I say.
â€œWell, because you hate me right now.â€ 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 heâ€™s not completely over it. Â Shit, I pretty much had to beg him to meet me here.
He shakes his head. Â â€œI donâ€™t hate you.â€ Â His tone is very matter-of-fact. Â â€œJust say it.â€
â€œNo, itâ€™s not a big deal. Â Itâ€™s justâ€¦hold on. Â Give me a minute.â€ Â I take a deep breath.
Our server comes over and grabs the pizza tray. Â â€œCan I get you guys anything else?â€
â€œJust the check,â€ he says, and she walks away.
â€œWell, I love you,â€ I blurt out.
He stares at me, so I keep talking. Â â€œThatâ€™s all. Â I just love you. Â And I told you a while ago that if I fell in love with you, I would tell you to your face. Â So Iâ€™m telling you. Â To your face. Â Right now.â€
He doesnâ€™t even blink. Â â€œThank you,â€ he says, and he takes another bite of pizza. Â Thatâ€™s it. Â Itâ€™s such an anti-climactic moment, Iâ€™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! Â Youâ€™re welcome for loving you. Â Really, no trouble at all. Â Anything I can do to be of service to you.
We sit in silence for a little while â€“ Iâ€™m not sure how long. Â I guess as long as it takes to listen to the words â€œThank youâ€ echo back and forth across my mind 7,012 times. Â The server drops off our check, and it occurs to me that I really timed that â€œI love youâ€ poorly. Â Now I have to sit here and try to make idle conversation while we wait for her to run the tab.
â€œSo my friend John is moving to San Diego,â€ my mouth says. Â â€œHe got an internship at UTSD.â€
â€œOh nice!â€ Â He gives me a high five across the table. Â â€œI used to date a girl that was going there. Â Thatâ€™s a really good program.â€
â€œYeah, well, that John, heâ€™s a smart fella!â€ Â Did I really just use the word â€˜fellaâ€™ in a sentence? Â Â I laugh out loud.
â€œNothing.â€ Â Iâ€™m not at all satisfied with how this went down. Â If this were a movie, itâ€™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. Â I have to bring it up again just to make absolute certain it happened. Â â€œSo you probably already knew that I loved you,â€ I say.
He shakes his head, carefree and easy. Â â€œNaw,â€ he says. Â â€œI didnâ€™t know that.â€ Â Jesus, we might as well be talking about how thereâ€™s a new Laundromat opening near my house.
â€œOh. Â Okay. Â Well.â€ I shrug. Â â€œNow you do.â€
Iâ€™m sitting in Planned Parenthood talking to a nurse. Â Iâ€™m already annoyed. Â My birth control runs out two days before my health insurance kicks in, and I â€œmake too much moneyâ€ 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 womenâ€™s health clinic: all oddly personal sex stuff to gauge your level of responsibility. Â I understand the need for what they do â€“ young women who come in there might not know about sex, and itâ€™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 theyâ€™ll just give me what I came for without getting all up in my business. Â I want to tell her, â€œLook, Lady, Iâ€™m â€˜bout to be 30, and Iâ€™ve never been pregnant or had an STD. Â Can you just give me the goddamn pills?â€
But no, she presses on. Â â€œAre you currently having sex?â€
â€œWith one or multiple partners?â€
â€œI see,â€ she says. Â â€œAnd is your partner having sex with other partners?â€
â€œNo. Â Uh, yes? Â Shit, I donâ€™t know. Â Probably. Â Who am I kidding? Â Yes, definitely. Â Probably. Â Letâ€™s go with probably.â€ Â I laugh. â€œLook, I donâ€™t know.â€
If this were a scene in a movie, the nurse wouldâ€™ve said something to make me feel more comfortable, something like, â€œGirl, I been there!â€ Â Then she wouldâ€™ve given me a high five.
But itâ€™s reality, so she just stares at me, says, â€œI see,â€ and then looks back down at her endless list of goddamn questions. Â â€œHave you had unprotected sex within the last month?â€
It takes every ounce of self-control I have not to say, â€œBitch, now you just being nosey!â€
Iâ€™m in my car driving one of my comic friends, Solomon Georgio, back to his house.
â€œLook, Iâ€™ll probably just die alone,â€ I say. Â â€œAnd Iâ€™m fine with it. Â Iâ€™m not gonna find anybody, Iâ€™ll be single forever, and Iâ€™ll die alone. Â Itâ€™s totally cool.â€
â€œWhy do you gotta say stuff like that?â€ he asks.
â€œOh, I donâ€™t mean it,â€ I say. Â â€œI just think that my life is a movie, so Iâ€™m trying to say the turning point line that the main character says in the movie. Â You know, the line that triggers the chain of events that end up making her life become suddenly awesome? The part where sheâ€™s pretty much given up, and she talks about it right before she ends up getting everything she wants.â€
Let me break in here to explain something. Â When I say that I believe my life is a movie, I donâ€™t mean that I think the world revolves around me. Â 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 doesnâ€™t have an end yet.
This belief has been constant throughout my life. Â 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 Deanâ€™s office at OU. Â We had mistakenly sent a flower delivery man away, and the Dean, worried, told us that those flowers were for his wife. Â I stood up from my chair, threw my notebook and pen on the ground, yelled the words, â€œMy whole life has been leading up to this moment!â€ and sprinted out of the room to chase down the flowers. Â I brought them back a few minutes later to reluctant and sparse applause. Â True story.
â€œOh,â€ Solomon says. Â â€œSo youâ€™re saying weâ€™re acting in the romantic comedy of your life right now.â€
â€œWell, in that case, I know my role. Â Iâ€™m the pro-active gay friend that expresses way too much interest in your love life.â€
â€œIâ€™ll call you later. Â Be all like, â€˜Girl, I know of a hip party tonight.â€™â€ Â He does a series of gay man head shakes and snaps before continuing. Â â€œHoney, we need to get you laid. Â Iâ€™ll be right over. Â Â Iâ€™m bringing some mimosas and a case full of outfits for you to try on. Â Why? Â â€˜Cause Iâ€™m a stereotypical gay man.â€™â€
Now Iâ€™m cracking up.
â€œYou know,â€ I say, â€œMy life would be a million times sadder if I wasnâ€™t constantly surrounded by funny people.â€
Itâ€™s an afternoon in early June, and Iâ€™m deleting his number from my phone.
This isnâ€™t the first time Iâ€™ve deleted someone, but I gotta admit, it feels a little wrong this time. A few months before, Iâ€™d actually promised him that no matter what, weâ€™d stay friends, but Iâ€™m fed up with existing in a gray area. Â â€œItâ€™s not a big deal,â€ I tell myself. Â â€œAnd I tried not to delete him. Â He wonâ€™t care if weâ€™re not friends.â€
The logical part of me knows thatâ€™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 donâ€™t just delete his contact info â€“ I delete every call to or from him in my call history. Â I delete our pages and pages and pages of text conversations, the story of us. Â I delete any photos I have with him in them, any remnants of him in my phone. Â Itâ€™s the most efficient deletion Iâ€™ve ever performed.
There, I think. Â Now weâ€™re not friends. Â Gone.
Two hours later, Iâ€™m sitting at the bar at the Hollywood Improv watching the Thunder play and drowning in whiskey when my phone vibrates, a text message. Â I look at the number. Â Itâ€™s him. Â I can tell by the area code.
I try not to check the message. Â I try to hold out for as long as I can. Â In reality, maybe 30 seconds pass before I open the text, but when I get to the screen, itâ€™s blank. Â 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. Â Huh. Thatâ€™s weird.
So I text him back. Â â€œHey,â€ I write. Â â€œDid you by any chance send me a blank text just now?â€
â€œNope,â€ he writes.
No? Â 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: â€œIf I call you right now, will you answer?â€
â€œOf course, doofus,â€ he writes.
He picks up on the second ring. Â â€œHey Baby Girl!â€
â€œThatâ€™s funny,â€ I say. Â â€œSo you really didnâ€™t just text me?â€
â€œWellâ€¦uh, because I deleted your number from my phone. Â I deleted all our text history and everything. Â Then, two minutes ago, I got a blank text from you. Â Weird, right?â€
â€œWhoa,â€ he says. Â â€œThat is pretty weird. Â Wait, you deleted me?â€
â€œYeah, but the point is, Iâ€™m putting you back in.â€ Â I figure I spend so much time looking for symbolism in the world around me, Iâ€™d be a complete fool to ignore the one sign that actually means something obvious. Â That phantom text, well, itâ€™s the Universe telling me, â€œNo, Leah. Â Not this person. Â Not this number. Â Not this time.â€
â€œI think my phone is telling me not to delete you,â€ I say.
â€œGood,â€ he says. Â â€œAnd hey, donâ€™t do that again, okay?â€
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. Â Because Iâ€™ve only worked here for six weeks, I have very little attachment to these students, and quite frankly, I donâ€™t give a fuck if anyone on the planet graduates from the 8th grade, but Iâ€™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. Â The teachers sitting around me are melting into puddles of goo because someone told some kid to reach for the stars. Â Meanwhile, Iâ€™m sitting unaffected, wondering how long itâ€™s gonna be before we can tear into that cake.
Because the graduating class is so small, thereâ€™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. Â She ambles to the front of the stage, stands face to face with her 8th grader, and says this:
â€œYou know, Ian, Iâ€™m honored that you would choose me to speak for you today. Â Because really, I should be up here thanking you. Â In all my 30 years of teaching, you gave me the best compliment that Iâ€™ve ever received. Â I donâ€™t even know if you remember this, but when you were younger, you came to see me one day, and you told me, â€˜No matter how bad my day is, Iâ€™m always happy when Iâ€™m with you.â€™â€
â€œSo today, Ian, Iâ€™d like to return that compliment. Â And Iâ€™d like to tell you that no matter how bad my day is, Iâ€™m always happy when Iâ€™m with you.â€
That one gets me. Â Iâ€™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 wouldâ€™ve had to miss this. Because moments like this only happen in real life.
Iâ€™m sitting in the House of Pies on a Saturday night, late June. Â Iâ€™m dressed up for the second time since I moved to L.A., wearing a skirt, heels, and his jacket because itâ€™s cold in here. Â Weâ€™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.
â€œI feel stupid,â€ I say.
â€œBecause Iâ€™m all dressed up. Â I did this for you, you know.â€
â€œWhat? Â Come on! Â You did?â€
â€œYep. Â I did,â€ I say. Â â€œI wanted you to think I looked pretty.â€ Â And then I throw my head forward, smashing my face into the table. Â â€œOh God, Iâ€™m too embarrassed to look at you right now.â€
â€œCome on,â€ he says, laughing.
â€œNope, not looking.â€
â€œLeah, look at me.â€
I sit up, my hair covering my eyes.
â€œHey,â€ he says. Â â€œThis, right now. Â It feels like a scene in a movie.â€
I sigh, exasperated. Â â€œNo, itâ€™s not,â€ I say through my curtain of hair. Â â€œItâ€™s reality. Â My life is not a movie. Â It just seems like one because Iâ€™m really dramatic about everything.â€
I blow a chunk of hair out of my eyes, and the first thing I see is him laughing at me.
I smile. Â I canâ€™t help it.
If this were a movie, heâ€™d be long gone by now. Â 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. Â Here in real life, he doesnâ€™t do either of those things.
I donâ€™t pretend to know how this story ends. Â Truth is, making everything a movie has been my way of dealing with the fact that I donâ€™t know a lot of things.
But I do know this: no matter how bad my day is, Iâ€™m always happy when Iâ€™m with him.