After a string of disastrous relationships, was this one for real?
I met you two weeks after my dad was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer in the summer of 2021. It wasn’t my intention to date or meet people during this time. The dating scene in L.A. had never been my thing, especially with some not-so-memorable matchups being few and far between. While at the Monterey Park Hospital, knowing more about my dad’s prognosis and trying my best to hide my tears, I found solace in the dating apps. I swiped right on people I never planned to meet, exchanged messages with some until we exhausted our conversations and even went on a few first dates — anything to provide the distraction I desired. Matching with you was different. Even at our first meeting, I felt I could talk to you about anything and everything, from the mundane (like talking about our favorite fiction novels and my connection to “Crying in H Mart”) to the more complicated and pressing things in my life.
Talking to you scared me. I felt a strong, immediate connection, yet my thoughts and feelings conflicted and collided. I felt guilty spending time with you, but talking to someone I could be my authentic self with returned the tiniest semblance of normalcy in my life. While sitting at the Cheesecake Factory in Pasadena, drinking a cocktail and crudely attempting to sing along to Billie Eilish on our third date, I looked up at you and knew I liked you.
You should know that I felt our dates were perfect, but the guilt and fear blemished them in a way I couldn’t explain. Nevertheless, I enjoyed all our outings: those hours we spent exploring the Long Beach aquarium, attempting to name all the little fish, and sharing our first kiss overlooking the bay atop the parking structure; shopping at bookstores and thrift stores, calling out all the books we’ve read and love. Still, I feared my sadness would push you away. Deep down, I worried you’d realize that you deserve someone better. But you stayed, and that has meant the world to me.
As someone with a string of disappointing and failed relationships, introducing a partner to my parents was unprecedented. I didn’t doubt that I loved you but felt terrified to take that step. With my dad’s health declining, there was no doubt that I had to do it.
When I told my dad about you, I unconsciously held my breath waiting for his response. “Ya sabia,” he said, a momentary pause matched the skip of my heartbeat, “no más quiero que seas feliz.” That was the first time I told my dad about a partner. The weight off my chest was like taking a new breath of fresh air. Getting his approval made me feel like meeting you, seeing you and finding these small moments of solace were OK. All that mattered to my dad was me finding someone who made me happy.
When you and my parents met, I felt ecstatic and relieved for the first time in a very long time. I saw my two worlds come together, creating a beautiful moment I will cherish forever. A moment that comes to my mind when my dad’s presence is the strongest in my heart.
Every moment we spent together exploring Los Angeles, I fell more and more in love with you. You have shown me that life is filled with small, perfect moments and that I am worthy of love and happiness. Although it felt and seemed like our relationship was moving quickly, it felt right.
My dad passed away three months into dating. I was heartbroken and inconsolable. I knew it was coming, but a part of me believed I had more time. More time to spend with my dad and more time to show him what a fantastic partner I had. After my niece, you were the first person I called. I thought seeing me broken and bereaved would persuade you to leave me. Instead, you came over, let me cry until I fell asleep and took care of my mom and me. I saw that your care and love were genuine. At that moment, I knew you were the person I was meant to be with.
It has been eight months since my dad died. You know these months haven’t been easy. You console me when my days are filled with endless crying and anxiety. Even when I feel like I’m hurting you by simply being your partner, you erase those doubts and concerns. Instead, we’ve started to create a future together. On a whim, we adopted a rambunctious German shepherd puppy and got tattoos while exploring Joshua Tree. We dreamily talked about owning a mansion in Big Sur overlooking the ocean while driving up Pacific Coast Highway to Monterey. As we drive from one indie bookstore to another, we contemplate the novel we’ll one day write together. In these happy moments, you remind me that my dad would have wanted me to have a loving and bright future.
In those moments, I often find myself staring at your features as we drive through L.A. traffic. “What?” you’d say in playful exasperation, a wide grin on your face as your quick glances catch my eyes.
“Nothing,” is all I can say, lost in the reverie where nothing else beyond the now matters.
I know my life moving forward will never be the same, and my future seems a little blurry and unclear. But there are a few things I am sure about. I’m glad one of the most important people in my life met my dad. I’m so happy I took a chance on you during the darkest moment in my life. And despite knowing my happiness and accomplishments will always be bittersweet, I look forward to every moment we’ll share.
The author is an East L.A. native who works in education but aspires to be a writer and cafe owner. She shares her journey through grief and recovery on Instagram: @liz.outloud.
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 [email protected]. You can find submission guidelines here. You can find past columns here.