I had to take an office job. Would falling in love be my reward?

Heartbroken after a breakup that was long overdue, crushed by a stalled entertainment industry and depressed by my temporary day job at a dementia center, I grasped at any semblance of stability. Desperation led me to apply for an office job at a law firm in Westwood despite having zero legal experience and a unique disdain for cubicles and fluorescent lighting.

Months of hopeful waiting ended with a curt dismissal: “We’ve decided to move forward with another candidate.”

I was bitter, and my mind was overflowing with imagined shortcomings directed at the other candidate. The guy they chose was probably fluent in legal jargon and adept at being mundane as hell. He probably penciled in his laughter. He probably was awful, I thought.

Two months later, I received a phone call. The firm was expanding and wanted to hire me. I knew I would have to work with the person who got the job I had applied for, but I needed the income, so I dusted off my loafers and put my ego aside.

I wasn’t going to be there for the long-term and I certainly wasn’t going to make friends, I decided. Naturally the universe had other plans for my time in the office. My aloof facade crumbled upon meeting Chris.

When we were introduced, I politely asked him how he was doing, and he proudly belted out, “L-I-V-I-N!”

It was obvious why Chris was selected for the job that I had wanted. He didn’t know about statutes or precedents. He wasn’t stuffy or boring, and his laughter was far from regulated. Everyone loved him. And why wouldn’t they? I’d never met anyone like him.

His smile was like a floodlight. He repelled negative energy, and anxiety feared him. In an office that made the DMV look like Disneyland, he was everything.

Chris was training me, and we were the only people in our department. I started wearing mascara, removing my headphones and asking Chris questions I already knew the answer to. He would leave notes on my car. We exchanged screenplays, and he would text me after work, referencing inside jokes that we pretended were funnier than they were.

But I’ll admit that I was stubborn. I couldn’t let myself enjoy anything about this job or this phase in my life. I needed to focus on my writing. The strike would end, the clouds would lift, and this blip in time would be forgotten. I couldn’t admit that I was in love with Chris. It wasn’t part of my plan.

We would go to Barney’s Beanery together on our lunch breaks but pretend that we weren’t going on dates. We would take our 15-minute breaks together to “get fresh air.” We made a combined Spotify Blend playlist, revealing our mutual love of Green Day and the Smashing Pumpkins. Sometimes I even forgot how much I hated going to the office.

Chris had an AMC Movie Pass, and I was a good liar. He would see movies after work to beat traffic, so I bought the pass and acted like I’d always had it.

The day we planned to see a movie after work, Chris received terrible news of a death in his family. I offered my condolences at the office. I wanted to hold him but didn’t know if I could so much as pat his arm. I asked if he’d still like to see the movie, and he insisted he needed the distraction.

It was Christmas for all of December in Century City. As we drank three limoncellos each, Chris told me stories about his uncle who made Southern California feel like home, and we shared our first hug. He smelled like clean laundry, and I was drunk enough to tell him.

We sneaked more drinks into the theater and watched Paul Giamatti in “The Holdovers,” which made me cry. Chris held my hand. We stumbled into another movie — a private screening of a live production of “Titanic the Musical.” We didn’t want our night to end, so we went to Barney’s for a nightcap. Standing outside of our favorite bar, we shared our first kiss. It felt overdue.

Since then, we’ve met each other’s families and friends, taken road trips together and seen many more movies. (For me, the AMC Pass was a great investment.)

We also finished all of our work assignments at the law firm. Three weeks ago, the firm let Chris go. I wondered if I should quit. I wanted to. Chris was the best thing about that office, and I couldn’t bear the thought of being there without him. Thirty minutes after Chris was let go, I was let go. We were so happy to be free. The next day we went to Universal Studios to celebrate.

The maze of dead-end interviews, the drudgery of temporary gigs and the tumultuous nature of making a living as a writer don’t feel so bad anymore. We have new day jobs but still go to Barney’s Beanery. We also work on our screenplays and write bad jokes.

Occasionally I make arbitrary plans and ridiculous statements about how things ought to pan out. And I find myself laughing. Not a penciled-in laugh. An unchecked laugh. A Chris-inspired free laugh. I don’t know what the future holds for us, but for now, Chris and I are falling deeper in love and “L-I-V-I-N.”

The author is a screenwriter living in West Hollywood. She’s on Instagram: @mlindz

L.A. Affairs chronicles the search for romantic love in all its glorious expressions in the L.A. area, and we want to hear your true story. We pay $400 for a published essay. Email LAAffairs@latimes.com. You can find submission guidelines here. You can find past columns here.

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About the Author: Rayne Chancer