We would drive to San Francisco just to eat at a hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant with soup dumplings that melt in your mouth. We hiked canyons with our dogs, had brunch with people who were also running like frenzied rodents in the Hollywood Habitrail, and hit every Sunday-morning flea market from Orange County to Long Beach. We were slowly scaling the wall of middling success; he was churning out TV pilots and I was auditioning for everything from the cop dramas in which I would only scream, "Get down! He has a gun!" to Lifetime movies about runaway pregnant teens. Occasionally I would read for the pretty blond lead, but I would invariably receive uplifting feedback like, "She's a seven, we need a ten!" Ari bought a tiny apartment in Manhattan so we could have a safety raft when Hollywood beat us up. And get the one thing Los Angeles is incapable of producing—a decent bagel.
Any emotional hole I had, Ari would try his best to cork and spackle. He was always thoughtful; if I had to travel somewhere, flowers always awaited me. He was protective; once, when the doorbell was stuck and kept ringing and I thought it might be a killer in a hockey mask, he abruptly left work and drove home the wrong way on the 405 freeway to placate me. And if someone was rude to me, he was out for blood.
There's nothing more seductive than a man who will duel at dawn for you. Or duel any time of the day, really. Once we were traveling to New York, and the TWA representative informed us our tickets were for a later flight. He said he'd put us on the flight in coach seats. "That's impossible," Ari said, "I paid for firstclass tickets." Ari was trying to impress and had spent many miles getting these tickets.
The haughty representative sighed dramatically. "You have coach seats, sir, and even if I had first class, I have a waiting list already filled with devoted platinum TWA flyers. You acquired yours with dividend miles. I'm going to need you to go ahead and step out of the first-class line so I can help people who actually have first-class tickets."
Ari leaned his six-five frame over the ticket podium."I bought these tickets for this flight! And I'm not leaving until you honor them!"
The TWA representative looked at him with dead eyes. "Could you please leave, and take your whitetrash girlfriend with you?"
Wah? Oookkkaayyy, now he'd crossed the line. There was no reason to sling insults, and if so, why smack me? Ari looked right at the guy. "When you were a little boy playing in the sandbox with the other kids, and Timmy wanted to be president and Scooter wanted to be an astronaut, did you actually dream of one day becoming a TWA ticket representative?" He left the man completely deflated. Yes, it was mean. No, I'm not proud of how much I enjoyed it. But never in my life had anyone defended me with such tongue and dagger! And although it was demonstrative and effective, it gradually rendered me unhealthily dependent.