I gave him my only olive
He had the most beautiful profile. I don’t mean his dating profile, that’s how we connected. I mean, the side of his real face. Her features – from her long brown hair to her flat nose, sensual lips and strongly rounded chin – were full of character. And he was smart, firing back funny answers to conversational crumbs.
He was 36 years old. I was 43. I was new to Los Angeles. I’ve been here four years. She recently broke up with a seven-year relationship. Nothing like this has ever been done.
Our quick exchange of messages ended with an arranged late afternoon drink in Venice the following Thursday. When he arrived, he was surprisingly guarded, which turned me on a bit, which made me even funnier. I guess I wasn’t what he expected. I saw a picture of his ex on Instagram. He was a bit mischievous looking and well groomed, with the hair of a 20 year old.
He ordered orange wine. I drank a gin cocktail. I made him laugh. He touched my arm. He ordered another orange wine. There was another gin. I wasn’t nervous anymore. I asked if he wanted to have dinner. He said yes.
I think it all started for me at that moment. The point of emotional no return. We walked up Rose Avenue to a restaurant called Wallflower. He grabbed my arm.
We were sitting at the bar and after a while I realized my hand was in his. Somewhere between the courses I kissed her on the cheek. We talked about love languages. I touched his leg. We went outside and kissed while waiting for his car. We looked at each other for a moment and acknowledged something about ‘potential’.
I told him to text me when he got home safely. I never think to say that.
I replied to his message that I was excited to see him again. He replied, “Me too xx.”
We didn’t see each other for another three weeks. He was traveling for work. I thought about him all the time.
People say we have too many choices and that’s the problem with dating these days. But it isn’t. When you meet someone special, the thought of dating someone else seems like a completely pointless, torturous task.
It was around this time that the olive fell from the tree.
I bought the olive tree a few months earlier in Ojai. It was about two feet tall and still is. Wood was not my first choice. When I brought my original pick to the counter, the man said, “Wouldn’t you rather have one that turns into fruit? They’re not as pretty, but they’re more fun.”
So I replaced the tree with a more yellowish looking one covered in tiny white and yellow flowers. I planted it in an old terracotta pot and placed it on a chair as if I were a guest in my garden.
I’ve never had my own garden before. After my last relationship, I moved apartments and turned a lifeless cement hallway into a lush green oasis. It gave me something to focus on.
I made some benches, planted flowering vines and a couple of cacti. It felt good to feed new life. A hummingbird would visit. Butterflies flickered in the shadows. For me, sitting there with my morning coffee and evening gin and tonic was a spiritual experience.
I checked my olive tree every day. Its flowers opened, then fell, then nothing. Until the end of April when I saw a tiny green seed on the stem.
Over the next few weeks, I watched the olives grow and expected to see others. When none appeared, I began to worry that my precious olives would fall in the night or be eaten by a pest. I felt protective, like a pet.
By August, the olives had grown to the size of a fingernail. I imagined throwing a party when it was time to harvest. Friends came and we pickled it.
It was in September—about the same time he and I met—that the olive changed color. It turned from green to brown to black, its smooth skin wrinkled and smaller.
When the olive finally fell, I knew exactly what it was for, why it existed. I put it in a small jar with a metal lid and kept it in the freezer for some reason.
He came back on Saturday and we arranged to meet the following Thursday. I had the olives in my car when I picked it up. We went to the Melrose gallery opening. There was no awkward warm-up this time. Not feeling each other.
We joked about art. The photographer documenting the evening kept taking pictures of us. It felt like we were being captured, to preserve this moment for a reason.
We left the gallery and walked to a bistro. My arm was around his shoulders. His around my waist. While we were waiting to cross the street, I kissed her. We sat at the bar and ordered wine and a few small plates. I didn’t even look at the prices. I would do anything to get your attention to look at your profile.
I couldn’t stop caressing her bare legs and my hands found their way into hers again. We talked about everything: his pottery, my carpentry, broken hearts, the state of the nation. It felt like there had never been a more perfect time for two lives to intersect. I wanted to leave every part of his past in my memory to speed up my knowledge of his entire life.
When I brought her home she said she was going to freeze her eggs. He said the injections may affect his mood in the coming weeks. I was comforted by his openness, as if he had prepared me for the future, and I couldn’t believe that one day we might make something out of that egg.
I grabbed the glass jar from the ashtray and handed it to him. He jokingly asked if it was my sperm. (I told him it was funny.) I told him the story of my first and only olive and said I wanted him to have it. He said it was the best present he had ever received.
For a moment I thought she might cry.
I walked her to her door. He said he had a friend over for the weekend. We agreed to meet next week. We endured his bent. I remember sniffing the side of his neck for a moment. I just wanted to keep track of him in his absence. I’m usually never like that. Maybe it was a little weird.
He asked me to text him when I got home. I texted him before I got home. I didn’t want her to think we lived too far apart.
The next day I sent her some recommendations for places to go with her boyfriend. He loved them all. I asked about the weekend on Monday night. He said it was beautiful. He asked about mine. I made it sound better than it was. I asked him how his week was, if he was free on Friday.
I sat down while typing the message. It was kind of like a life-changing text.
The next day around noon I had the feeling that he had passed out. Maybe his friend was more than a friend. Maybe they felt romantic at the restaurants I recommended, and my excellent taste in places helped cement their love.
I followed on Wednesday night. To close. It took him 84 minutes to respond.
I was amazing. I was fantastic. He loved the time spent together. But –
I thanked him for reminding me what it was like to be nervous about someone. He asked if we could be friends. I told you it wouldn’t work.
I couldn’t sleep that night. The thought of him getting my olives excited me like the peas under the princess’s mattresses.
I texted him the next morning. I just had to get it out of the way.
“Hey,” I wrote. “One last request. You can throw that damn olive in the trash if you haven’t already. It meant something strange to me and it was a mistake to give it to you so soon. I don’t want it back. I’d rather it didn’t exist.”
I ended the message with some clarity. I didn’t want to sound dramatic.
He didn’t answer. Of course not.
I wonder if you did what I asked.
I kind of hope he did.
I kind of hope not.