We were deeply in love. Then you disappeared in me
“Why are you crying?” my husband asked me. I just finished watching “The Bear,” the Hulu show that certainly resonates with chefs but also causes pain for women who love or love them.
With a tearful smile, I excused myself to the backyard, where I lay on the lawn and let the unseasonably wet weather of the Valley transport me to another time in my life.
I am a graduate student in psychology. The guy I started dating was a chef trained in France. We were doomed from the start, and our mutual masochistic ways should have been the first clue. We are two workaholics with a shared love of tragedy. With music, books, art, we are always inclined to anguish. In my mind, we were Michelin-starred lovers in Los Angeles. We are Romeo from the South Bay and Juliet from the Valley.
We met like most modern couples do – on an app. After exchanging the standard surface level, we started talking on the phone. Hours passed as our deeply meaningful conversations about our beliefs, experiences, hopes and dreams continued with ease. Interrupted by flirtatious flirting and long nights of good sleep, we planned adventures together while watching episodes of Anthony Bourdain on the 405 Freeway together.
The rhythm in his voice as he inhaled and exhaled smoke became a familiar and comforting pause.
After a brief phone conversation, we met face-to-face over pasta and wine at Brentwood, followed by gin and tonics at my apartment in Westwood.
I proposed an interesting but unappealing family-owned Italian restaurant as a secret test of snob. He passed with flying sandwiches, and we talked non-stop about the value of tradition in food.
He wants to open a gourmet restaurant in Southeast Asia as a love letter to his family and a well-wishes for those who see Asian food as a cure for a hangover.
I love hearing him musing about his plans. He speaks with intense passion backed by encyclopedic knowledge. I found his attacks familiar the way he’d flirted with medical students before – professional and passionate. Unlike those interactions, however, he values my opinions and experiences regarding his world as well as mine.
We are equally drunk by each other’s wisdom.
We fell in love instantly, but those feelings came to me that caused me to panic and react to self-medicating him. My life trajectory was stable and plotted. His is unreliable and always in motion.
I feel stuck in my identity and plans. He offers an unpredictable and interesting alternative. We often dream about moving to Uruguay and opening a bookstore and beach bar. Sometimes I forget that my goals include a home, marriage, and children.
Not yours. “The smartest thing I can do is marry you…” Those are usually his farewell words when we fall asleep together.
However, our Edenic ecosystem is not sustainable and exclusive by design. We rarely socialize with friends or family, and if we do, there’s a countdown until we can all go home together.
Our weekend afternoons were like a cliché, with me in his old shirt and him smoking Marlboro Reds on my balcony. We enjoyed martinis at the Musso & Frank bar, drunken walks to Whole Foods, and endless strolls around The Last Bookstore. We enjoyed cooking in our small kitchen after our drive to Nijiya Market to the punk music.
High levels of our bubble develop into happiness mixed with manifestations of self-destruction and addiction. He has no concept of “too much” in any aspect of his life. He lives in excess.
I was close enough to taste the wine in his mouth but affection was always far away from the inner darkness that treated itself with one arm of his. He despised my expertise and my ability to understand trauma. I think it’s heartbreaking to believe that someone might actually know him.
The fleeting chef-addicted tattoo became a reality in direct contrast to the censored stillness of my life in medicine. We started to fall apart on our own. I feel taken advantage of and like a parent. He feels harassed and controlled. None of us are wrong in judging each other.
I sat on the couch at a friend’s house on a warm night, waiting for his “Go home, come over” text from him. It never came but the following happened: “I don’t love you, I never did. Don’t rewrite. Forget me.”
I made my friend read it because I couldn’t understand the words. The text reads as if it were written in a foreign language — a message sent from an inner demon.
My calls to him went to voicemail. I was blocked. High love turns into the most wonderful antidote in the blink of an eye. For weeks, I felt like a psychopath every time I thought about him.
He’s in rehab – a fact I haven’t discovered in years. That powerful message was sent from the steps of an inpatient facility that he was too embarrassed to tell me.
Then one day, several years after receiving his text, I received an email from him: “I’m sorry.”
He has written about his revision and his accomplishments in the decade since our sudden breakup. I responded in a forgiving tone, telling him that I had achieved my life goals of getting married, having a home, and a child.
He wrote back with a predictable but heartbreaking response: “The smartest thing I could do is marry you.”
The author is a therapist in private practice. She lives in Studio City with her husband and son. Find her on Instagram: @oui_theracco
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