My perfect man moved out of the country so I leaned on my dad and LA

It ended as quickly as it began.

On that cold Saturday in October, I was over the moon after our seven-hour second date, the follow-up to our five-hour first. We drove up the Pacific Coast Highway – or “the PCH” as he called it in his North British accent. His personality reminded me a little of my father’s – brilliant, thoughtful, determined – but with a wicked, sexy twist of his own.

I snuggled into the back seat of his jeep, my head resting on his chest, his arms around me. I smiled as the wind whistled through the grass near Point Mugu. For the first time with a man, my brain wasn’t full of chatter and fears. I couldn’t remember the last time it was so quiet.

The next day I went to see my father at the Movie Theater in Woodland Hills for my weekly visit. Dad and I have always been close. It’s quirky yet quiet, full of old LA stories that paint the city with magic. I am also his primary caregiver, taking him to appointments and covering for him when necessary. It’s my payment to him for being the only one who could reach me with love, compassion and empathy when I was a runaway teenager.

I hinted at the existence of this new man as Dad is way too concerned about my love life. I said I like him a lot but kept quiet as this was new.

On Monday, a family emergency meant all of this new man’s future plans, which he told me about on our dates, were completely postponed. He would return to Britain – whether temporarily or permanently was yet to be seen – but it wasn’t fair to hold on to me while it was all up in the air.

You can’t blame a man for doing the right thing in dating, no matter how much pain it causes. But I’ve never had a relationship about “life happens” — at least not one that promising.

I cried until my head hurt, my body glued to the bed while watching “Gravity Falls” and “Big Hero 6” while the food I ate turned to ash in my mouth. When I spoke to my friends about him and what had happened, their reactions were divided. Some eyed him with questioning frowns — a fair response given the dating betrayal. Others fainted and said they were sure he would come back to me, which caused me to raise an eyebrow as I’ve had no luck in the romance world.

But the only person I didn’t say anything to was Dad.

The following Sunday I went with him to run errands and maybe take a ride. After loading Dad into the passenger seat and loading his walker into the back of my CR-V, we were on our way. I apologized for not calling him as this week had been bad.

“What happened?” he asked.

I didn’t know where to start. The week was full of other mishaps in addition to heartbreak. But with that I am able to quickly fix them and move on; it was the one thing I couldn’t control, the thing I longed for the most.

After our errands, I asked him what he wanted to do. After a few minutes of thought, Dad said, “You know, I still haven’t seen the 6th Street bridge.” I’m always up for an adventure downtown, so I put on the oldies playlist I made for him created and raced to I-5.

We talked about my job and the upcoming elections. Working on his larynx exercises to strengthen his vocal cords, the car filled with loud “Aaaaaa eeeee ahhhh ooooooohs” and laughter. Dad told me about poker and his new friends – even though he didn’t get his copy of Everything Everywhere All at Once back from one of them.

Finally, at the break driving out to Boyle Heights, I took heart. “Dad, remember I told you last week that I was going to start dating someone?” You said.

He nodded. I have explained everything. The five hour first date. The seven hour second. The family emergency. How smart, generous and respectful he was. How it felt like my mirror, equal in our similarities, while reflecting me as I wanted to be in the world. Optimistic. Brave. Playful. Nice.

“Uh-oh,” Dad said, laughing sadly. “You are infected.”

I swallowed. Dad knows me too well, especially that falling in love with someone like that doesn’t happen to me. For the first time in my dating life, I was sure of my feelings for a man from the start. However, my future with him may not happen and I had to accept that.

As Jackie DeShannon hummed about the world that needs love, we made our way across the 6th Street bridge, framing downtown perfectly. I drove slowly, enjoying the view, my eyes trying to catch the awe on my father’s face as we traversed this new architectural wonder of Los Angeles.

We then drove to Philippe’s, where not only were we blessed with perfect parking, but also a short line to get sandwiches with French dip. As I watched Dad devour his with overwhelming joy while his feet tapped the sawdust floor, I realized that this was the first moment I felt joy since Monday.

Even though I’m the caretaker now, my dad still found ways to take care of me. Like my anxious teenage self, I needed to be guided out of the heartbreak with compassion, empathy, and love. Who better to do it than the person who did it first?

We slowly made our way back, strolling through Chinatown and Elysian Park, singing “Peggy Sue” and “Can’t Buy Me Love” while enjoying the scenic views of Dodger Stadium and skyscrapers. It may not be Pacific with the man who stole my heart, but at least I shared it with someone I love.

The author is a screenwriter and freelance writer based in Los Angeles. She is on Instagram: @reinavictoria

LA Affairs chronicles the search for romantic love in all its glorious expressions in the LA area, and we want to hear your real story. We pay $300 for a published essay. Email LAAffairs@latimes.com. The submission guidelines can be found here. Past columns can be found here.

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