Chad’s profile picture on Tinder was a black-and-white photo of him singing into a mic with a fedora on his head. This guy is a douchebag, I thought. A handsome douchebag. I swiped right.
It was 2017, my senior year at Northeastern University in Boston. Chad was only a sophomore at Berklee College of Music. He’d taken a few years off school to tour with his band. On our first date, we learned our freshman apartments were two blocks from each other. We frequented the same convenience store.
“We probably passed each other and didn’t know it,” he said with a smile on his face.
The night went so well. However, I felt it necessary to drop in that I was moving to Los Angeles after graduation to pursue writing and stand-up comedy.
Unfazed, he responded, “I love L.A.”
Weeks later, we worked side by side in his bed. I glanced over at some lyrics on his open laptop. A line read, “All those wasted years I thought were overdue / were leading me to you.”
That Christmas, Chad drove me to his family’s home in Delaware. He held my hand and said, “It would be cool if we were in L.A. together.”
My graduation loomed, Chad’s band disbanded and he came up with a plan. He would race through Berklee and, in a year, he would join me in L.A.
I unpacked in my new Santa Monica apartment and began counting down the days. My countdown was only relevant for a week.
Chad called. A management team was auditioning on campus for a new band based out of Nashville. I stood frozen near Wilshire Boulevard.
“I’m sure nothing will happen,” he told me. “But I should at least audition.”
“You’re going to get it,” I said encouragingly, feeling a shift in my body as my future self put a consoling hand on my shoulder.
Days later, he was in. He was dropping out of college and moving to Nashville.
“I don’t want you to think I’m any less dedicated to us,” Chad said, before I even asked.
He would still move to L.A., he reasoned. He felt one of two things would happen. Either the band would become a massive overnight success and he would have the means to live in L.A., traveling to Nashville only for work. Or it would flop and he would move west with newfound connections. We drank the Kool-Aid and ignored the obvious option.
That Fourth of July, I walked through Santa Monica alone until I reached the beach. I watched the groups of friends and couples around me as fireworks erupted over the Pacific. You will one day have friends and a lover here too, I told myself.
For years, we did our best. Our days swayed to a rhythm of good morning texts and evening FaceTimes. Video calls couldn’t scratch the itch, but we kept dialing.
Chad traveled to L.A. and I traveled to Nashville. When he visited, Chad was in the front row of my shows whether at the Comedy Store or a dive bar in Tarzana. I made the whole room laugh with jokes about him. When I saw Chad perform, whether at the Grand Ole Opry or somewhere on the road, he took a moment in every song to make sure I knew he was singing to me.
Whenever we were together, a suitcase was nearby.
Every time I flew in to visit him, band members, management and everyone on the street asked, “When are you moving to Nashville?”
This question was a well-intentioned knife in my chest. “No,” I wanted to scream, “when is Chad moving to L.A.?”
In 2020, there were fewer reasons to be apart. The entertainment world slowed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Chad and I lived together for months. We spent Thanksgiving and Christmas in my new Valley apartment. Chad cooked breakfast for me in my kitchen like it was his. We walked down Ventura Boulevard smiling at other couples, pretending we were a full-time L.A. love story too.
On Christmas Day around 2 p.m., Chad remarked that normally by afternoon, it barely felt like Christmas anymore — with gifts unwrapped and the excitement over. He then looked at me and said, “It still feels like Christmas.”
I wanted this all the time. I only had it because the world shut down.
I needed us to make a firmer plan, but all Chad could offer was “one day.” At four months of dating, “one day” felt magical. At four years, it felt like our relationship was no longer holding hands in the front seat. It was twiddling its thumbs in the back.
After one too many lonely Sundays, I told Chad on a visit that I couldn’t keep going. When I told him, he said I’d given him a new sense of urgency to get to L.A.
“I have more faith in us now,” he said, as we drank margaritas in Casa Vega on our last evening out as a couple. I felt a glimmer of hope, like he might fly to Nashville and return with a plan.
But there were no plans, just promises to help him get through a difficult moment.
Can I blame him? I can’t. I chose my passion too.
I could make it still feel like Christmas, but I would never be a record deal. He could write a gorgeous song for me, but he couldn’t give me room after room of crowded laughter like L.A. could.
As we said goodbye at Los Angeles International Airport, he told me he would figure this out. He looked me in the eye and said, “The band is not worth losing you over.”
Then he got on a plane and lost me for the band.
The author is a writer and comedian living in Los Angeles. Her website is elkethoms.com. She can be found on Instagram, Twitter and TikTok: @elkethoms.
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.