In feng shui, there's discussion about destiny. I never understood what it was until I truly got to know Roger.
We were in our 30s that summer. I was working with actors at a small theater in East Hollywood, and he was an actor on "Days of Our Lives." I'm Japanese American, and he is African American. But the bigger difference was where we lived: I was in an apartment above a garage in Los Feliz, and Roger lived in Venice, a few blocks from the beach.
That summer it was hot — so hot that I needed to be out of Los Feliz and its oppressive heat. I began staying overnight at Roger's bungalow because the Venice air was so much cooler. The difference was 15 to 20 degrees.
Although we had been seeing each other for two years, we had not discussed a future. I didn't think about a commitment with him, and I never raised the issue. It was simply nice enjoying the moment at the beach.
But as the summer waned, Roger began asking me when I was moving back to Los Feliz. He was an eligible bachelor, and women called him all the time, even though I was around. He went to functions without me, and that was OK with me. I just needed to be where it was cool. He said that was fine, but not too much longer.
Ultimately I decided I didn't want to return to Los Feliz at all. The Venice weather was nicer, the air better. So I began looking for my own place. It was hard to find a decent place on the Westside on my budget. Roger knew I was looking and having a hard time, so he didn't raise a fuss while I stayed in his place. We had fun together, no commitment. And soon enough it was fall.
I read about feng shui and noticed that at the center of Roger's bungalow was a closet, not tidy, full of unused stuff. The center of the house is a feng shui indicator of good health. But before I could convince Roger to clean up the mess, Danny the Bartender unexpectedly got killed on "Days of Our Lives," and Roger was another actor available for work. A roommate was helpful. The rent was $325 — split between two people, a good deal. So I stayed longer.
Halloween came and went. One November evening I was watching actress Ann Jillian on television talking about breast cancer, so I idly followed her suggestion and gave myself an examination. I felt a small pea in my right breast. It took me more than a month to get a mammogram, to get the results (negative) and, based on my intuition, to insist on a biopsy. The tiny pea turned out to be malignant.
The cancer diagnosis suddenly brought my life into focus: How strong were my feelings for Roger? And how did he feel about me? There was no time to procrastinate, for tomorrow suddenly was a big question mark. I told him I had to know: Was he with me during this crisis? Without hesitation he said he would take care of me. He was there for me.
Roger took me to my oncology appointments, and he was with me when I had a mastectomy six days before Christmas. Three days before Christmas, while I was recuperating in the hospital, he said he was invited to a holiday party. I was bandaged and groggy, and it was the holiday season, so I encouraged him to go and have some fun. He certainly deserved it. He went without me, but he came back early. It would be the last time he went to a party solo.
I came home two days before Christmas. Roger had cleared the messy closet. He had brought in flowers. On Christmas Eve we had takeout food from the China Inn on Lincoln Boulevard.
That was the only year I didn't buy a single Christmas present. That year the gifts I received were my good health, and him. One year later he proposed marriage to me, and exactly two years from the date I had surgery, I got pregnant.
Our daughter has graduated from Princeton, and Roger and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary last July. It has been a heck of a lot of hard work, but I believe it was destiny.
Janet Mitsui Brown is a feng shui practitioner in Los Angeles.