I awakened and looked at my phone. The meeting time and place were set. I was beginning to get nervous. I had a drink of water and went for a run to calm my nerves and to think. I headed north up 20th street towards San Vicente and then west towards Ocean. The morning sun was shining through the coral trees. I paused at the end of the street and looked out at the Pacific. This was one of my favorite viewing spots. The north end of palisades park, on a cliff overlooking Santa Monica Beach. The marine layer was visible over the water and creeping towards the beach blocking the view of the ocean’s tail. I looked out at the water and sand, and my mind began to relax. “They say it has no memory”. I believe the same has been said about me. Maybe that’s why the Pacific and I are so deeply connected, one-sided as it may be.
I headed South towards the pier. I stopped at California and walked out on the beacon overlook, to the edge of the cliff. I looked back towards the Santa Monica Mountains. This really is a beautiful place. I’ve been here a decade but it doesn’t feel that long. It’s been a continual vacation, driving home every day, rolling my windows down to the welcome of an ocean breeze. I’ll never get used to it. But maybe I won’t get the chance to.
I grew up in less sunny and amiable climates. I was born in Scandinavia, the birthplace of Vikings and kingdom of snowy winters. My first Christmas in LA, on the other hand, was similar to my first fourth of July. The feeling of wearing the same clothes year around and being outside in one eternal season, was all it took for me to never want to leave. So, I stayed, not in search of stardom like so many who migrate West, but because I found something I didn’t know I was looking for.
Before LA I had lived in the Southern United States where I received most of my education, and where my family still lived. There I had met a girl. She was wonderful. Spirited and cool, thoughtful and kind. We shared a vibe, a comfort, that so few relationships give you in life. This was a challenge because I was the son of conservative immigrants from one culture, and she of conservative immigrants from another culture. The families were not fond of our bond. Our parents both had arranged marriages and grew up in villages. In our homes growing up, duty and responsibility mattered above all else, and for me that’s the philosophy I too adopted. For her though, she didn’t let that shackle her existence. She believed in love above all else. We differed in our viewpoints but as first-generation Americans we both cherished the freedom and opportunity this country had given us, and in a short time, we fell in love.
She moved to LA a few months after me. Having my best friend to enjoy this dreamland with was too good to be true. Time stood still in the passing years, and I finally worked up the courage to fly back to the East Coast and tell my parents that I wanted to marry her. It was the most difficult conversation I’d ever had with them, with cruel words spoken that I could never forget. Imagine you’re from a deeply rooted military family, with generations of service to the country, and an infallible pride for your loyalty to it. Then imagine that there comes a time for that family where the only son wants to move to your rival nation and join their military instead. This may give you an idea of the shame my parents felt. My father, who had taken less than a week of sick days in his entire life, suddenly had pains in his chest and couldn’t go to work the following week. I went back to LA, distraught and wounded, and told her that she should leave. That there was nothing for her there and she should move on with her life.
We stopped talking for a time. Then I received a message with news that’d she’d be moving back east for a new job. She wanted to see me one last time before she left.
As I ran back home the way I came, I thought about what I might say. What I might do. The role she’d gotten was one of the best positions you could get in her field, and so it was a tremendous and rare opportunity. She was leaving. The question was whether I’d follow or stay.
I loved my life in LA, the place of dreamers, fools, heartbreaks, and inspiration. It’s interesting the types of love that exist in the world. In the movies, we often elevate romantic love above all others, but love exists in so many forms. The love for children, family, faith, purpose, ambitions, freedom, ideals, and the love of a physical place that touches your soul. Is there a way to differentiate the intensity of each type of love? Is one higher than the other?
I completed my run. I showered, changed, and headed out to meet her around Noon. We met at the Griffith Observatory. I was a bit of a space geek so it was one of my favorite destinations. I was a fan of the exhibits, the planetarium, and the view from the hill on which it sat. You could see the city, on clear days, and also the Hollywood sign, which attracted herds of tourists looking to catch a glimpse of the iconic scene that graced so many screens and represents so much imagination. And now, among the clouds, the observatory would witness two more star-crossed lovers where millions had come before.
We met out front and walked around the grounds. We talked, strolled, and enjoyed the afternoon there together. Then we parted ways. On the drive back, I passed my apartment and headed towards Ocean and San Vicente. I pulled over and walked back to the north end of the park where I was earlier in the day. The sun was brighter now and the fog had cleared up revealing the distant horizon of the serene and glistening body before me. I looked out and felt the peace slowly wash over me. Love is an interesting thing.