It’s your last night in Los Angeles. I’ve had a crush on you for months, but I could never tell you. We didn’t have the smoothest of starts to our friendship. Well, I thought we were friends straightaway. I found you to be curious, smart and quick to call me out. I liked that but also found it wildly intimidating. But apparently you didn’t think the same of me. You thought I was loud and aggressive and a flirt. Which, honestly, is all true.
Couldn’t you see that you were the one I wanted to be loud, aggressive and flirty with?
You did quickly warm up to me. We bonded over politics and reality TV, mixed with late nights out dancing and our mutual love of R&B. I might even say I think you started to like me. I remember when you texted me out of the blue, claiming to have an idea for the next big reality show. Were you being serious or were you flirting? Was this all an excuse to talk to me?
I really wanted to ask. But I was so scared there was still a chance you didn’t even like me as a person, let alone in that way. I had to tread lightly. The texting games continued. It led to nights out debating whether men or women had it worse dating in Los Angeles while splitting pretzels at Red Lion Tavern on Glendale Boulevard. Every time you would bring up the random girls you went out on dates with, I was jealous. Obviously jealous. I wish you had noticed that. Did you notice that?
But now it’s your last night. There’s no time for treading lightly. You had a last dinner with your family, and now a few of us are meeting up at the Friend bar in Silver Lake for one last night out. To be honest, all I could think about this week was tonight. Tonight I have to wear my heart on my sleeve. Tonight could be my last chance to tell you about my crush on you. Tonight could be the night I get crushed.
I forced a friend to come along with me for moral support — but also to hold me accountable to tell you how I feel.
You text me on your way to the bar, making sure I’m still here. I look up from your text and see you at the door. My heart flips. You brought along our mutual friend, but I see you also brought a woman I’ve never met. My heart sinks. I don’t love that.
Still, you smile at me. It feels like a different smile than usual. It is a smile that I feel differently from the others. We find our way to each other, embracing. We flirt. We dance. We laugh. The woman you brought stops by to let you know she’s leaving. You tell her to get home safe and focus back on me.
You stay. You stay with me.
As last call is announced, I know time is running out. All our friends have left — including my moral support, who gave me a “you’d better do this” look on her way out. It is just the two of us, closing down the bar. Just us two, holding on to every moment we have left with each other. You offer to give me a ride home and we continue to joke and tease. You tell me you are sleeping on your brother’s couch for the last night. Do I suggest you sleep at my place?
We talk about your new job — several states away — where you’ll have the opportunity to oversee communications for a candidate running for office. You remind me your new boss is a long shot to win and say that maybe you’ll be back in L.A. before I know it. Something pangs me, and I remember we are really just joking around. I know you’ll probably love it there, have a great boss and get your candidate a win.
I tell you it supposedly takes two years to feel at home in Los Angeles and that you’ve only known me for a few months so you can’t leave yet. That comment makes you smile, which makes my heart skip again. You offer to give me a ride home, and now that we’re in front of my house, I don’t know what to do. I joke about going to Canter’s Deli for a late-night bite. But the thing is, I’m not joking. It’s a safe place I can suggest where I would get to hang out with you a little bit longer. I would get to have a few more minutes to try to be bold with my feelings for you, to just sit across from you a bit longer. You say you’re not hungry, that you need to be going.
Any courage I thought I mustered is gone.
We sit in silence in the parked car. The silence sits with us. But it almost feels like if we never break it, we never have to say goodbye. We can just sit here with each other forever.
Finally, I can’t take it anymore. I break the silence.
I tell you that I’m sure the candidate you’re working for will be successful because he has you on his team. But that I half hope you get fired, so you’ll have to move back here, but that I know that won’t happen. Because you’re you.
You half smile and blush and you brush your hand on mine. A surge goes through my body. It makes me feel alive. But what then? I invite you in and feel alive for one night? You still have to leave tomorrow. And it’s for your dream job. Am I supposed to get in the way of that?
Wait, no. No, I’m not.
We hug goodbye. It’s the kind of hug that we know will be the last one for a while. I feel you exhale into me. God, that was sad.
I get out and walk to my house. I haven’t told you about my crush. I haven’t told you how amazing you are. How much I’ve wanted to kiss you the past few weeks. That you are such a catch and I want to be the one who gets you. That I really want you to come inside and kiss me. That I should have said all of this a while ago, but I couldn’t let you leave L.A. without knowing.
But I just quietly get out of the car, scared of rejection and heartache. I abandon my evening’s plan to kiss you. It’s your last night in L.A., and I’m still completely intimidated by you.
It’s been nearly two years, and yet I still think about that night. It’s my inspiration for confronting situations and making a move instead of letting key moments pass me by. The missed opportunity (and the pandemic, of course) have taught me to value my time and use it wisely.
What’s the worst thing that could have happened that night? You would have said “no, thanks” to coming in? So what. At least I would have an answer. Today, I live to get real answers and not live in a fantasy.
I shouldn’t have quietly gotten out of the car. I wonder if you still think about it too.
Who knows what I missed out on by not inviting you in. What we both might have missed out on. But I know I missed out on our possible love story. I missed out on you.
The author is the head of creative development for SolaWave and is on Instagram @apaigemueller.
L.A. Affairs chronicles the search for romantic love in all its glorious expressions in the L.A. area, and we want to hear your true story. We pay $300 for a published essay. Email LAAffairs@latimes.com. You can find submission guidelines here. You can find past columns here.