We walk in. We are told that our seats are in section 119, which is nowhere near the door we came in. By the time we find our seats, they are inhabited by two teenage boys in Clippers jerseys. We have to ask them to leave, which makes me feel like pretty much the worst person in this stadium, since these boys actually care about this game and I don’t care in the slightest.
But regardless, we sit down.
We watch the ball go back and forth.
David turns to me, the stress finally leaving his face. “OK,” he says. “Let’s root for the Clippers.”
“Sounds good. Why Clippers?”
David shrugs. “They seem like the underdog.”
It’s as good a reason as any. When they score, David and I jump up. When a foul is called against them, we boo. We cheer for the guy trying to make the halftime shot. We pretend to be impressed by the Laker Girls. We stomp our feet in rapid-fire motion when the announcer tells us to make some noise. But my heart is not in it. I don’t care.
The Clippers lose, 107 to 102.
David and I leave with the flow of the rest of the stands. We are pushed into the people in front of us. I trip on a stair. We break away from the crowd. We leave the stadium.
The sun set some time ago. I should have brought a sweater.
“Do you remember which way we came in?” David says. “It was this way, right? After we came around the building?”
“Oh, I thought you were paying attention.”
“No,” he says, his voice strained. “I thought you were.”
I realize then that between parking in a random lot and walking all around the stadium to get in, neither of us has any idea where we parked.
And that’s when I think, Jesus Christ. I’ve done all of this, I’ve spent all of this time, done all of this work, just to end up back here?
Because while it may not look the same as trying to find your car in Lot C of Dodger Stadium, it sure as hell feels exactly like it.
And then I look at David, and I think that if all roads eventually lead here anyway, I’d rather it was with Ryan.
I broke up with Emily. It wasn’t really a serious thing, but I thought it was better to be honest. I’ve been thinking about you and me so much that it feels wrong to have another woman in my bed. And it felt wrong to do that to her, too. So I broke it off.
I’ve been thinking about our future. I’ve been thinking about what life holds for us. I’ve been thinking of ways I can be a better husband. I made a whole list! Good stuff, I think. Stuff that is actionable. Not just things like “Be nicer” but actual ideas.
I was thinking one of them could be that we have one night a week where we eat some weird international food you like. For instance, every Wednesday, we go out to dinner for Vietnamese, Greek, Persian, Ethiopian, whatever you want. And I’ll never complain. Because the rest of the week, we will compromise. But one day a week, we eat together at some crazy place you love. Because I want you to be happy, and you deserve to have tahdig or pho or a bahn mi sandwich or any of those other weird things. Also, I’ll only make you go to the Chinese place on Beverly once a month. I know you hate it. There is no sense in going there all the time just because I like the orange chicken.
See, honey? Compromise! We can do this!
Rachel calls me when I’m at work, and I have plenty of work to do, but I pick up the phone.
“It’s out of my price range,” she says. “I went to look at it, and it’s perfect. Completely perfect. But it’s too much money. Like, not realistic for me but not so expensive that it’s outrageous. It’s just enough to torture me.”
“I’m sorry,” I say.
“Thanks. I don’t know why I called you to tell you that. I think I just . . . I got kind of excited about the idea? And then I thought maybe this whole thing was going to become real?” She’s saying all of these things as if they are a bunch of questions, but it’s clear she knows them to be facts. “Yeah,” she adds. “I think when I saw that space, I saw it all in my head, you know? ‘Batter’ written in script above the door. Me with an apron.”
“You’re calling it Batter?” I ask her.
“Maybe,” she says defensively. “Why?”
“No, I like it.”
“Oh, well, yeah. Anyway, I think it just seemed real.”
“We will find you something,” I say. “We can go out again this weekend and look at stuff.”
“Yeah, OK. Are you around Friday night, actually? I kind of want to go when they are closed and just peer in. I feel like a spy when I do it to their face.”
I start to laugh. “I can’t Friday. I have plans.”
“With that guy David? I feel like I barely know this guy. You never talk about him,” she says.
“Yeah, I don’t know, I guess there isn’t much to talk about.”
The truth is that I asked him to dinner because I want to tell him I think we should stop sleeping together. It’s not that I don’t care for him or like him. I do. And the night at the Staples Center was frustrating, but that’s not it, either.
It’s that I need to figure out how I feel about Ryan. I have to make a decision about what I want. And I can’t do that if I’m distracting myself with David. David and I aren’t going anywhere. And while I’ve never minded that about us, it’s time to start making some life decisions. It’s time to stop playing around.
“But I can do Saturday night,” I say. “I’ll be free Saturday night.”
“Actually, forget it,” she says. “Forget it. I’m calling the bank. That’s where my bakery should be. I’m gonna see if I can increase the loan. I want to lease Waffle Time.”
“You sure?” I ask her.
“No,” she says.
“But you’re going to do it anyway?” I ask.
“Yep,” she says with remarkable confidence. And then she gets off the phone.
I asked David to meet me at a bar in Hollywood. We’ve been having a nice time chatting, but I think it’s important that I don’t mince words.
“I think we should stop seeing each other,” I tell him.
He looks pretty surprised, but he seems to take it in stride. “Is this because I acted like such a dick at the Staples Center? I was just frustrated because we couldn’t find the car,” he says, smiling.
I laugh. “I just . . . Ryan and I are supposed to ‘get back together’ soon.” I use my fingers to suggest quotations as I say it.
“Totally get it,” he says. He puts his arms up in surrender. “I won’t look at you seductively anymore.”
I laugh. “You’re such a gentleman,” I say.
The bartender comes over and asks us what we want to drink. I remember him from years ago. Ryan and I came here once for a friend’s birthday party. Ryan ended up having a few too many that night as the group of us were huddled around the bar. Around midnight, I grabbed the keys and told Ryan it was time to go home. After we said our good-byes and were headed for the door, Ryan stopped short at the end of the bar. He belligerently got the bartender’s attention and said to him, “Excuse me, excuse me, have you ever seen a woman this beautiful?” pointing at me. I blushed. The bartender shook his head. “No, sir, I haven’t.” I remember thinking then that I was the luckiest woman in the entire world. I remember thinking, after all these years together, he thinks I’m the most beautiful woman in the world. I felt like one of the ones who had it all figured out. Now the same bartender is still serving drinks here, and I’m breaking up with another man.
“So what about you?” I ask David after we order. “What are you gonna do?”
“Me?” He shrugs. The bartender puts down David’s beer and my glass of wine. “I’m no closer to figuring any of this out than I ever have been.”
“For what it’s worth,” I offer, “I think you should call her.”
“Yeah,” I say. “I do. From everything you’ve told me, she was heartbroken to lose you. You said she dropped to her knees and begged you to forgive her, right?”