Your typical Sunday morning cartel of Los Angeles stereotypes has communed around overpriced coffee and baked goods…
A couple of racially ambiguous queerdos slowly make their way through an assortment of beautiful pastries, their discussion unraveling around an animated TV show. Two quintessential eastside LA millennial women stare diligently at a single rose gold Macbook, each hoping to come up with the answer to the problem at hand before the other. A group of skaters hang at a large communal table, the single female telling a story while the four men slurp their iced coffees. At the table in the corner, I am people watching while pretending to read an obscure book with a marvelous title. At the counter, a taller and prettier than average twenty-something guy in a pair of lovely moss green overalls awaits his drink of choice, one hand running through his blond curls while the other taps an incoherent pattern onto the countertop.
The rim of my quad-shot almond milk latte barely hits my lips when I feel a gush of warm air. I turn towards the door to see a lanky, unmistakably Midwestern man donning white shorts, an oversized blue sweater and a distinctive yellow dad hat enter the shop. As Dad Hat comes to the counter, he locks eyes with Overalls. They smile at each other and for a brief moment, I see their entire future together…
They share a coffee that morning and Dad Hat gives Overalls his number. A few days later, Overalls finally musters the courage to send the first text. Dad Hat responds after a few minutes. They have a brief conversation. And then another. And then another. And then another. Eventually plans are made and dates are had and realities are exposed. Overalls is still hurting from his last relationship and unafraid to wear his pain on his sleeve. Dad Hat carries little baggage and is quick to reassure Overalls that he’s not looking for anything super serious. Things remain playful and exploratory until the fifth date, which takes place at an Aldous Harding concert at the Masonic Lodge in Hollywood, where things become official. They hold hands and take turns kissing each other’s necks as they become enveloped in the performer’s acoustic soundscape. Upon getting into the car, Overalls asks Dad Hat if they are boyfriends. Dad Hat nods and they kiss.
Habits form. Overalls sleeps over at Dad Hat’s cute Los Feliz apartment more often than not. Dad Hat spends most of his day’s off lying on the grass at Echo Park Lake with Overalls nuzzled in his armpit. Overalls asks Dad Hat to compare nature to different dessert items. Dad Hat asks Overalls to identify the things most indicative of his personality. There is an endless desire to lay in the sun together.
The honeymoon period lasts a little under a year. And then, almost too suddenly, everything is different. Dad Hat gets a new job. Overalls remains uncertain of his career path, which Dad Hat no longer finds amusing. They spend weekends scheming new ways for Overalls to pinpoint his passions. Dad Hat begins doing cross-fit. He refuses to admit it is because he’s envious of the ambiguous “gym friends” Overalls has made. Overalls doesn’t need an admittance to know the truth. The winter comes and although both are in the best shape of their lives, the sex runs dry. Neither addresses it and they spend Christmas apart.
With the arrival of the new year comes a new job and a renewed sense of self for Overalls. This revival creates a new energy in their relationship and they return to both the outdoors and to the bedroom. February is spent under the covers, relearning their love of each other’s bodies. March is spent under the stars, as Dad Hat takes Overalls to the High Sierras and Joshua Tree for the first time. April is spent back in bed because, damn, it’s that good. May is spent looking for their first home together. June is spent moving into a Craftsman in Boyle Heights. July is spent sweating and regretting the choice of moving into a place without central air. August is spent traveling to Iceland where they forage for berries and try to live out of a camper van. They quickly realize they’re city queens. Thankfully, this doesn’t bring on any fights and leads to the discovery of an amazing Airbnb. On their flight back to America, Dad Hat has his first ever anxiety attack while thinking about spending the rest of his life with Overalls. He is relieved when he looks over to find Overalls fast asleep.
Dad Hat’s anxiety attacks continue, becoming more severe as Overalls gets a promotion and considerable pay raise. At the recommendation of his friend, Dad Hat begins to see a therapist. Overalls struggles with having more power in the workplace and can’t reconcile it with the power dynamic at home. Dad Hat retreats into therapy in order to minimize his anxiety, which Overalls misreads as bad news for their relationship. One night in a fit of fury, Overalls spontaneously shaves his head. Dad Hat is scared of Overalls and his anger. They go two days without speaking. Upon reconciliation, Dad Hat recommends Overalls begins therapy. He agrees without hesitation. In therapy, both express their concerns about spending forever with the other. Each therapist recommends they have a conversation about these concerns. Neither brings it up with the other. Instead, they plant a vegetable garden.
Around Halloween, Dad Hat picks up painting as an outlet for his anxiety. Overalls is threatened by how surprisingly talented Dad Hat is. Dad Hat begins painting a series of abstract landscapes of different parks in Los Angeles. He always paints Overalls somewhere within the landscape, laying stoically in the grass. Overalls rarely notices. Dad Hat sells his first painting by accident after a colleague sees one of his pieces in his Camera Roll while going through photos of their new tomato plant. Overalls begins trying out hobbies of his own, never finding one where he excels like Dad Hat did with painting.
By the spring of the following year, Dad Hat is one of LA’s hottest emerging artists. His work is the big hit at the LA Art Show and hangs in the homes of anyone who knows anything about where art is going next. He is offered shows in New York and Denver. He is uncertain, scared of overexposure and over-investing in what was supposed to be a passion project. One night post coital, he asks Overalls for his opinion. Overalls agrees it may be too much too soon but assures Dad Hat of their financial stability. He suggests Dad Hat start with Denver before going to New York. He reassures him of his talent and admits how jealous he is of Dad Hat’s talent.
Denver is a hit. It goes almost too well. Everyone, most of all Dad Hat, is surprised. He agrees to do a New York show at one of the city’s biggest galleries. Overalls asks if he can come to the show but Dad Hat tells him he shouldn’t miss so much work. Choosing to not make a big deal of what he thought was a rejection, Overalls celebrates by buying Dad Hat a piece by an artist he knows he loves. Dad Hat is brought to tears.
New York does not go well. At all. The gallery tells Dad Hat his work is “west coast” and “materialistic.” Dad Hat flies back to LA the following day and cries silently in the car all the way back home from LAX. When they get home, Overalls tells Dad Hat he got another promotion and is now leading his department at work. Dad Hat immediately divulges what the gallery had to say about his work. Upset at Dad Hat’s impulse to steal his moment, Overalls doesn’t overtly disagree with the gallery’s comments, leading to the couple’s biggest fight yet. Doors are slammed. A glass is broken. Things are said that are immediately regretted. Overalls spends a week staying at his friend’s apartment. When he returns, Dad Hat is gone, a note on the fridge saying, “I’ve gone to Paris. Need the garden at Versailles.”
A month later, while Dad Hat sits at his favorite spot on the Champ de Mars in Paris, his mind wanders as he imagines running through an endless field in his Wisconsin hometown. The loneliness of the act is only matched by the boundlessness of the pasture. And then, while imagining his feet gliding across perfectly cut blades of grass, he has the worst anxiety attack of his life. He chokes on a piece of his baguette and passes out from lack of oxygen. He wakes up two days later in a dimly lit Parisian hospital room, Overalls sitting bedside. They sit in silence for what feels like an hour. After a deep breath, Overalls tells Dad Hat he found himself in every one of his paintings.
The door swings open again and the hot air brings me back to reality. As I look away from the two strangers whose future I’ve just imagined, I turn to see a young woman with too much energy for a Sunday morning practically skip her way towards the counter. Overalls picks her up at the waist and they kiss. Dad Hat orders a turmeric latte. I return to my book, hoping to escape reality.