She had the most beautiful profile. I don’t mean her dating profile, which is how we connected. I mean the side of her actual face. Her features — from her long brown hair to her flat-tipped nose, voluptuous lips and strong rounded chin — were full of character. And she was smart, firing back funny responses to my conversational crumbs.
She was 36. I was 43. She was new to Los Angeles. I had been here four years. She was recently out of a seven-year relationship. I had never managed anything close to that.
Our quick-fire exchange of messages ended with an agreed upon late afternoon drink in Venice the following Thursday. When she arrived, she was surprisingly guarded, which put me a little on edge, which made me funnier. I don’t think I was what she was expecting. I saw a picture of her ex on Instagram. He was kind of hunky-looking and well-groomed, with hair like a 20-year-old.
She ordered an orange wine. I had a gin cocktail. I made her laugh. She touched my arm. She ordered another orange wine. I had another gin. I wasn’t nervous anymore. I asked if she would like to have dinner. She said yes.
I guess that’s the moment it all started for me. The point of emotional no return. We walked up Rose Avenue to a restaurant called Wallflower. She held my arm.
We sat at the bar, and after a while I realized that my hand was in hers. Somewhere between courses I kissed her on the cheek. We talked about love languages. I touched her leg. We walked outside and kissed while waiting for her car. For a moment we looked at each other and acknowledged something about “potential.”
I told her to text me when she was home safe. I never think to say that.
I replied to her text, saying I was excited to see her again. She replied: “me too xx.”
We didn’t see each other for another three weeks. She was traveling for work. I thought about her constantly.
People say we have too much choice, and that’s the problem with dating these days. But it’s not. When you meet someone special, the idea of going on a date with anyone else feels utterly pointless, an excruciating chore.
It was around this time that the olive fell from the tree.
I had bought the olive tree a few months earlier in Ojai. It was about two feet tall, and still is. The tree wasn’t my first choice. When I took my original pick to the counter, the man said, “Wouldn’t you prefer one that’ll give you fruit? They’re not as pretty, but they’re more fun.”
So I swapped the tree for a scruffier-looking one covered with tiny white and yellow flowers. I planted it in an old terra-cotta pot and put it on a chair, as if it were a guest in my garden.
I’d never had my own garden before. After my last relationship, I moved apartments and created a lush green oasis from what was a lifeless cement passageway. It gave me something to focus on.
I made some benches, planted flowering vines and a couple of cactuses. It felt good to nurture new life. A hummingbird would visit. Butterflies would flicker in the shadows. Sitting out there with my morning coffee and evening gin and tonic was, for me, a spiritual experience.
Every day I would inspect my tree for olives. Its flowers bloomed, then fell, then nothing. Until late April, when I saw a tiny green kernel on a stem.
Over the next few weeks, I watched the olive grow and expected to see others. When none appeared, I began to worry that my precious olive would fall in the night or be eaten by a pest. I felt protective, as if it were a pet.
By August the olive had grown to the size of a fingernail. I imagined having a party when it was time for it to be harvested. Friends would come over and we would pickle it.
It was in September — around the same time she and I matched — that the olive changed color. It transitioned from green to brown to black and its smooth skin wrinkled, and it grew smaller.
When the olive finally fell, I knew exactly what it was meant for, why it existed. I put it in a small jar with a metal lid and, for some reason, kept it in the freezer.
She returned on Saturday, and we arranged to meet the following Thursday. When I picked her up, I had the olive in my car. We went to a gallery opening on Melrose. There was no awkward warm-up this time. No getting a feel for each other.
We joked about the art. A photographer documenting the evening kept taking pictures of us. It felt like we were being immortalized, that this moment was being preserved for a reason.
We left the gallery and walked to a bistro. My arm was around her shoulders. Hers around my waist. As we waited to cross the street, I kissed her. We sat at the bar and ordered wine and some small plates. I didn’t even look at the prices. I’d pay anything to hold her attention, to gaze at her profile.
I couldn’t stop stroking her bare legs, and once again my hand found its way into hers. We talked about everything: her pottery, my carpentry, broken hearts, the state of the nation. It felt as if there had never been a more perfect time for two lives to intersect. I wanted to commit every part of her past to memory, to fast-track my knowledge of her entire life.
When I drove her home, she told me that she was freezing her eggs. She said that the injections might affect her mood over the next few weeks. I was comforted by her openness, as if she were prepping me for the future, and I couldn’t help imagining that maybe one day we might make something from one of those eggs.
I picked up the glass jar from the ashtray and put it in her hand. She jokingly asked if it was my sperm. (I told you she was funny.) I recounted the story of my first and only olive and said I wanted her to have it. She said it was the nicest gift she had ever received.
For a second I thought she might cry.
I walked her to her door. She said she had a friend staying for the weekend. We tentatively agreed to meet the following week. We made out on her stoop. I remember smelling the side of her neck for a moment. I just wanted to hold a trace of her in her absence. I’m never usually like this. Maybe it was a bit weird.
She asked me to text her when I got home. I texted her before I got home. I didn’t want her to think we lived too far apart.
The next day I sent her some recommendations of where to go with her friend. She loved them all. On Monday evening I asked about her weekend. She told me it was lovely. She asked about mine. I made it sound better than it had been. I asked how her week looked, if she was free on Friday.
I sat down while typing that message. It felt somehow like a life-changing text.
It was around lunchtime the next day that I began the get the feeling I had been ghosted. Maybe her friend was more than a friend. Maybe they’d had a romantic time at the restaurants I recommended, and my excellent taste in venues had helped cement their love.
I followed up on Wednesday evening. For closure. It took her 84 minutes to reply.
I was amazing. I was awesome. She had loved our time together. But —
I thanked her for reminding me what it’s like to be excited about someone. She asked if we could be friends. I said that wouldn’t work.
I couldn’t sleep that night. The idea of her having my olive kept agitating me like the pea under the princess’s mattresses.
The next morning, I texted her. I just needed to get it out the way.
“Hey,” I wrote. “One final request. That damn olive, if you haven’t already, can you toss it in the trash. It weirdly meant something to me and it was a miscalculation to give it to you so soon. I don’t want it back. I’d just rather it didn’t exist.”
I ended the message with something light. I didn’t want to sound dramatic.
She didn’t reply. Of course she didn’t.
I wonder if she did as I asked.
I kind of hope she did.
I kind of hope she didn’t.