“Maybe I’ll move away. Start somewhere new, I’ll let you have L.A.”
– Gryffin feat. Katie Pearlman –
I can’t pinpoint one exact reason why I wanted to leave Los Angeles. It’s a place where I began to discover the kaleidoscopic facets of my adulthood, my sexual desires, and, most importantly, love. I developed long-lasting relationships with some of the most beautiful souls I have ever encountered and created fond memories that I still cherish to this day. I fell in love with the city almost instantly— all corners of its vibrant streets were filled with an abundance of unceasing excitement. LA made me believe I was capable of anything; to be whoever I want to be, to be free. For a while, I had no desire to ever leave. Los Angeles will forever have a special place in my heart.
As my relationship with the 4AM hookup enthusiast progressed, I realized that he and I were two gay men from different walks of life who shared one common struggle: having an addictive personality. Growing up, I developed an unhealthy obsession with video games and 2000s pop songs (shoutout to my queens JoJo and Cassie!). As time went by, my addiction went progressively more dangerous. Alcohol, sex, drugs, gambling… you name it, I’ve done them all. It didn’t take long for my evenings to be filled with me dissociating from my loved ones, giving fuel to my addiction to take over my life. There were times when I made excuses for not hanging out with my friends and, instead, spent the night curled up in bed endlessly scrolling on Grindr, waiting for the next hot guy to come along and offer me temporary love.
I thought that’s all I needed in life, something a platonic friendship cannot offer.
I am rarely obsessed with anything, but when I am, I fall hard. The unfortunate souls who know me well enough have experienced it firsthand— the countless times I made my friends sit in my car while I played Ariana Grande’s “Break Free” on repeat is a perfect example of that. Whenever I find myself a new person/thing to obsess over, I won’t stop talking about it. Thinking about it. Crying over it. I’m like a tiny planet dutifully orbiting around my addiction, a star with centripetal force that constantly pulls me in.
And it only took me less than two months and two meth-charged evenings to turn my fellow 4 AM hookup aficionado into my new sun. As time went by, we substituted our sexual chemistry (not that we had a strong one, to begin with) with something more emotionally substantial. He often came over to my apartment in the evenings, and we would sit cross-legged on my bed with our guitars on our laps, watching a guitar tutorial of an old Modest Mouse song that I wish I could remember. We spent hours playing poker against people twice our age at a nearby casino until dawn. We understood that we both had issues, yet we didn’t really try to change anything about the other person. Being with him was effortless, and the thing that I appreciated about our relationship is how accepting we were of each other.
I began to develop the less-than-stellar kind of romantic feeling for him: the kind of feeling you, from the very first time you lay your eyes on a person, tell yourself you shouldn’t have.
Throughout the course of our relationship, there was a common understanding that we were both allowed to see other guys. My boy and I never put a label on anything; we were just two homosexual males carrying their own respective issues who enjoyed each other’s company past midnight. Whereas I kept most of my sexual explorations to myself, my boy, on the other hand, never hesitated to share minute details about his relationships with other guys. One night, he told me he started developing unreciprocated feelings for a shy Chinese boy. Another night, he showed countless messages he received on dating apps from guys wanting to have sex with him. One night before our regular casino trip, he casually mentioned how sore his ass was from a night of hardcore plowing with a muscular Thai guy.
As time went by, putting on the act of a supportive friend who was willing to listen to him bickering over the phone with another guy was taking its toll on me. There are some guys out there who can get aroused by listening to their loved ones’ sexual adventures with other guys. Unfortunately, I am not one of those guys. Watching him basking in the affection from his Thai lover on the dance floor was a newly-found, self-torturous activity I loathed getting used to. I was disheartened to learn about every single new relationship he had when I was right there in front of him the whole time, giving everything I had for him.
To quote Nick from New Girl, I was his “emotional fluffer”— the boyfriend without the rewards.
I left dinner with friends early to help him with his motorbike accident. On a rare occasion, I supported him financially to help him continue playing at the poker table till sunrise, and I stayed with him the whole time. Every time I listened to another heartbreak episode and watched tears falling down his face, I grew increasingly frustrated.
Why can’t you fall for me? I am right here! What do these other guys have that I can’t offer?
Until one day, I just had enough of this bullshit.
I needed a change in life.
It took me over two years to recognize the pattern of my dating life in Los Angeles: I chatted with guys on a dating app, hooked up with them, started developing unnecessary feelings for them, and pushed them away due to their lack of desire to commit. During my first couple of months living in the City of Angels, I refused to acknowledge the pattern, brushing it off as a series of horrendous dates. I convinced myself that maybe, just maybe, I was unlucky, and I needed to be more patient. Just wait, and one day, you’ll meet “your person.” I knew I wasn’t trying to shoot for the moon— I didn’t plan to wed the next guy I date in the near future. I was, however, looking for someone to develop deep emotional connections with. Someone who, despite having no label, would put me on top of their priority list.
After my body count was getting awfully close to triple-digit, I finally realized this ain’t a coincidence. I didn’t know if the problem was rooted in the LA gays or me, but something was not right. For a while, I fooled myself into thinking I could adapt to the more free-for-all dating lifestyle that most people in LA somehow adhered to. I thought I could compartmentalize my feelings and created clear distinctions between friendships and sex. In retrospect, that was extremely foolish of me for believing I could kiss someone for multiple nights without developing any feelings.
I wasn’t actively trying to get my pathetic ass out of Los Angeles. However, when the opportunity to move to the Bay Area presented itself to me, I was thrilled. It was my golden ticket to put an end to this never-ending cycle of meaningless sex, one-sided feelings, and tragic heartbreaks. Besides, the East Bay is only a 6.5 hours drive away from LA— I could always drive down to LA over the weekend should I need an emotional break, to be surrounded by my friends that I cherish. Worst case, I could always decide to move back to LA with relative ease. I also felt like, with a more STEM-oriented degree that I have, the Bay Area would be a much more suitable option for me to grow professionally. Basically, it was a win-win situation for both my career and my mental health.
I would like to believe that the 4AM hookup enthusiast is not, inherently, a bad person. However, as an innocent gay guy thrust into the outrageously wild world of drug addiction so early in his life, the thought of how his erratic behavior was a direct result of his crystal meth consumption never crossed my mind. I remember vividly how angry I was when I left Los Angeles, feeling emotionally betrayed by my casino buddy after many sleepless nights we went through. We stopped texting a couple weeks before I made my official move to the Bay Area, not giving him a chance to say his goodbye. I figured it was best to step away from that toxic relationship without closure.
I spent the next few years thinking of my dramatic exit was a bit much, hating myself for being such a drama queen. However, one day, he texted me out of the blue asking to borrow money because he spent all of his at the casino, completely forgetting he still hasn’t returned the ones he borrowed from me a couple years back. What. The. Fuck.
After all is said and done, I guess I made the right decision to leave Los Angeles.