Our entire relationship history can be summed up within a 10-mile radius.
It starts in 1976. Paul and I were born at Kaiser Permanente on Sunset Boulevard, two weeks apart. He jokes that he winked at me as I was wheeled by. For a brief time, his mother worked for Pacific Telephone, the same company that employed my dad for 30 years.
It wasn't until our junior year at Fairfax High School that we met. We wound up in the same English literature class, sat near each other and bonded over our mutual dislike for our disorganized teacher. At the time, Paul sported a mustache and a flat-top haircut, and he had a passionate preoccupation with "Jurassic Park," both the book and the newly released movie. At the time, I was quiet and shy, trying to hide behind my waist-length hair and seeking refuge from the chaos of high school by volunteering in the school library during lunch.
Our high school graduation was held at the Greek Theatre. I had been dropped off early and sat on a bench, watching my classmates arrive. Paul was dropped off in a white VW Bug. He sat down next to me and told me he wasn't planning on going to college yet; instead, he'd be joining the family shoe business.
Turns out, Paul did help with the family business while continuing his studies at Los Angeles City College. I wound up at LACC also. I didn't own a car, and, as an 18-year-old, didn't feel prepared in any way to bury my future under a series of loans that would have allowed me to head straight to a four-year university. Occasionally we'd see each other and exchange the usual pleasantries, asking about classes and professors. Until my last semester.
In the spring of 1997, I was preparing to graduate from LACC; my plan was to transfer to Cal State Northridge. Suddenly, serendipitously, Paul was everywhere. I walked up a staircase; he walked down. I went into the library to study, and he was already there. But it wasn't until he showed up at my bus stop at the corner of Melrose and La Brea that our friendship really grew.
Paul was experimenting with a different route, and we started riding the bus together. We talked. We shared. And on a bus ride heading home, he asked for my phone number. But he never called. The second time he asked, I flippantly replied that since he hadn't called the first time, I wasn't so inclined to give it to him again. He promised to call, after confessing that he had misplaced my number the first time.
He did call, and we spent our first date at Starbucks in the Beverly Connection. We couldn't decide on a movie (an extravagance on our budgets), so instead we lingered over our cafe mochas. Saturday night became our date night. Two college kids, each living at home, borrowing my mom's car and dating on a budget. We ate fast-food by candlelight, because, thankfully, Paul had his own room.
A year after we began dating, we celebrated Valentine's Day by becoming engaged, a few days before we moved in together. The following Valentine's Day, we were married. We were still two kids on a budget and didn't want an excessive amount of money to be used on a fancy ceremony. We opted for a simple service at the Albertson Wedding Chapel on Wilshire Boulevard. By this time; Paul was working full time, I was commuting to Cal State Northridge on six buses a day and working part time. Once a week, we walked from our apartment to Ralphs on Wilshire and Hauser. We stopped by Hollywood Video, treated ourselves to a coffee at Black Dog Coffee and headed back home. It was our "Wilshire walking date."
Fourteen years have passed since we said "I do." We have spent our entire relationship living within the same ZIP Code, the same one I lived in as a child. We now own two cars and drive to Ralphs. But some of our favorite date spots still remain within walking distance: the French Crepe Co. in the Original Farmers Market, El Coyote on Beverly Boulevard. Now, as parents, our "dates" often include our son: dinner at Andre's Italian Restaurant at 3rd and Fairfax, a day at the Petersen Automotive Museum and lunch at Johnny Rockets.
Our day-to-day activities keep us rather contained within a small portion of a city map. We fell in love and made our life together in this neighborhood. It's where we've chosen to live and work, and where we are raising our son. We are striving to give him a solid foundation, a strong set of roots that will serve as the impetus for him having the confidence to go in any direction he chooses.
Wendy Kennar, the mother of a 5-year-old son, is a writer and was a public school teacher for 12 years. She blogs at Wendy's Weekly Words.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun