We've almost come to the end of my story about moving to L.A. and surviving the first year. But before I conclude, I want you to hear from the two people who were closest to me during that time.
My Hollywood Boulevard roommate Dr. Megan and I made this monumental move together knowing barely more than the other's name. By the time she moved to Georgia to start medical school one year later, I would have trusted her with my soul. She held my hand during the rough patches, and bought champagne for the celebrations, and,most importantly, she let me be. She made an indelible mark on my journey.
Of course, Dr. Megan was going through her own Year Of All Years, too. I do not believe we could have hand-chosen each other better.
When we were 22, Laura and I could not have been more different. The few things we had in common, though, were the things that really seemed to matter. We were small town southern girls, she from Oklahoma and I from Arkansas. We were proud of who we were and the places that had shaped us, but our heads and hearts were craving something bigger. We were each wading through the unfamiliar terrain of heartbreak - insides ripped out and hurting in places we never knew we had. Laura’s wound was fresh, while mine was gingerly healing. I had been through the darkest of it and come out the other side, head held high and ready for the adventure. I remember Laura from those first few weeks with her brave face and her sad eyes. I wanted to take her hand and show her that it would be alright, that we would be alright. She probably never knew how terrified I was that I might be wrong. To this day, despite the years and the miles between us, I still feel instinctively protective of Laura and the friendship that would bolster us through that year.
My earliest memory of my first day in LA: Laura in pigtails, exhausted to the point of delusion, giggling about how her top dresser drawer bounced out of the back of the pickup truck and was smashed somewhere along I-40.
Happiest I was during the first few weeks to have Laura by my side: We were jobless with rent to pay, so we registered with a temp agency. I have never felt more stupid. Laura and I with our respective Classics and Pre-Med degrees were barely capable of passing the computer test that would qualify us to answer telephones and take messages. I lasted exactly one day. Laura may have held on a little longer – but not much.
Family friends who became FAMILY: T. and Cyndi. T. is my uncle’s ex-girlfriend’s brother (really) who is responsible for providing us with actual employment in LA along with immeasurable amounts of generosity and love. Laura and I took refuge in their home on occasions too numerous to count. I am infinitely indebted to them.
Best furniture purchase: Following one of a thousand pieces of advice T. and Cyndi would give us during those months, Laura and I wandered into a quaint (read: ghetto) little store that allowed us to “design” our own sofa. We somehow managed to barter an oversized sofa covered in the loveliest linen fabric down to $500, the very last of a graduation gift from my grandparents and the only money we had. That sofa became the centerpiece of our apartment and the headquarters from which we lived our lives. After LA, it made the trip with me to Atlanta for four years of medical school and then to New York for internship. Every time I sat on it, I was pulled back to our apartment on Hollywood Blvd. I finally let it go 3 years ago.
Thing that drove me insane at the time that I look back on today with fondness: Half empty Dr. Pepper cans. In our apartment. Everywhere. I swear they multiplied on their own.
Stranger who became a friend to both of us: Rachel. Enough said.
First thing I can remember Laura saying about The Gorilla, the charming man who is now her husband and the father of her child: “I met the director today. He’s, um… dirty.”
During the last 6 months of that first year (and my last 6 months in LA), Laura and I worked on the same production, a time in my life that I will never forget. Those 6 months changed everything for both of us, opening our eyes, our minds, and doors we never thought possible.
If you know Laura or are a loyal reader, you know that one of these doors lead her to the love of her life. The saga of Laura and The Gorilla is one for the ages, and I’m sure there are plenty of words left at her fingertips to tell it. She’s the writer, so I’ll leave that major undertaking to her, but I will offer this perspective. I was The Gorilla’s assistant, answering his phone, paying his bills and feeding his turtles long before he and Laura ever had a real conversation, putting me in the unique position of having known them separately. They were complete opposites. I was also perfectly poised to watch Laura fall head over heels in the worst schoolgirl crush way, and then in the most real way, all the time trying to convince herself he wasn’t, couldn’t be the one. A call to Atlanta from LA one night years later confirmed what I already knew. I think she expected me to be surprised. Not even close.
In July of 2002, we packed up our precious home. I was off to follow another dream, and Laura stayed to pursue her own. We sat in that empty living room, on its beautiful original hardwoods with Ryan Adams singing “Goodnight Hollywood Boulevard” on repeat. Our paths were diverging, but we knew even then how important that year had been. The gift we had given each other was beyond measure, the simple gift of saying, “Be who you want to be,” and we were.
Nine years later, we still are.