She Looked Like Julia Roberts

April 24, 1970. Two days after her 40th birthday, my mother pressed my father’s hand and said, “Thank you for a lovely life.” Then she slipped into a coma and died from bone cancer.

I was not yet four.

May, 1977. I moved to the Napa Valley from Australia with my father and step-mother. I spent 16 of my next 17 years about an hour’s drive from Sacramento.

February of 1982. On a trip to Australia for my sister’s wedding, I began my habit of browsing men’s magazines like Playboy and Penthouse at the news stand.

Fall of 1982. In tenth grade, I went to public school for the first time and encounter MTV. Most of the videos seem to be shot in Southern California and the girls appeared gorgeous. I wanted them more badly than Jesus.

Spring, 1988. Sierra Community College in Rocklin, California. I stood in the parking lot talking with a friend of mine from Calculus class.

He said that girls in Southern California were really loose.

I was a virgin at the time and the prospect of loose girls seemed heavenly.

March 30, 1994. I drove for seven hours south from my parents home above Sacramento to UCLA. It was a couple of months after the big Northridge earthquake and traffic on the Five South was diverted on to side streets at one point.

It was raining. It was about 10 p.m. when I pulled into a UCLA dorm where I’d stay for the next couple of months with a friend of mine on the faculty.

The next week, I’d place a singles ad in the Los Angeles Times. I only remember one response. It was from a spunky woman who was all giggly and excited to meet me. She said, “I look like Julia Roberts, only I have bigger breasts.”

She picked me up that next evening in Westwood. She had a Julia Roberts smile and facial structure and her bust was plentiful.

She worked as a movie editor in Hollywood and lived in Studio City.

I was so happy to be back in LA after five bedridden years of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Her big breasts symbolized the bounty of Southern California. I couldn’t wait to get stuck in.

She wasn’t Jewish, but I didn’t mind. She took me to a sushi bar in Santa Monica where she ate dinner as we talked about my conversion to Judaism.

Then she drove me north on the Pacific Coast Highway, pulling off to the side in Malibu.

It was about 10 p.m. We walked out to some rocks beside the ocean and I put my arms around her and we started making out…

“OK, but no further,” she said.

Then she drove me home.

A few evenings later, she picked me up again.

“I want to show you something,” she said, and drove me to the Holocaust memorial at Pan Pacific Park.

As we stood there in the dark, I tried to grope her, but she held me off. She didn’t think it was right to fool around in a Holocaust memorial.

I wanted to spend the night with her but she said she couldn’t drop me off in Westwood in the morning.

I told her I had access to a friend’s apartment in Westwood that was being renovated.

She dropped me off at the dorm. I ran inside and grabbed a blanket and then rejoined her in the car and we drove down the hill and then we parked and went up the elevator and I turned the key in the lock and in the midst of the reconstruction, I spread out the blanket and we took off our clothes and laid down together and began kissing.

I’d been imagining this moment for days but now it was strangely anti-climactic. Afterward, held her in my arms.

Then she drove home.

I don’t think I ever talked to her again.

I got busy with two women I knew from Rieber Hall at UCLA (1988-89).

Then this woman I knew flew in from New York for the Memorial Day weekend.

I let Julia go.

A few days later, I got a long letter from her. When I read it, I felt like she was holding me close once again and looking into my eyes while the ocean surged around us.

She talked about how much she treasured our time together. She thanked me for being gentle and considerate with her. She asked to reconnect.

I don’t know why I didn’t call her. She had everything I wanted in a woman (aside from Judaism).

I guess I was spoiled. I’d been in LA for a few weeks, and I’d already nailed various women who’d previously been out of my league.

I lived in the city of angels and felt that Julia wasn’t such a big deal.

I was wrong. I was very wrong.

Many nights when I go to bed alone, I think about Julia.

I don’t reread her letter in my mind and wonder what might have been.

I don’t picture what she looks like now.

I don’t replay us wrestling beside the Holocaust memorial. Nor do I dwell upon my inadequate performance of the ultimate deed.

Instead, I see us standing on the rocks beside the ocean on our first radiant night together.

She stands above me and caresses my head as I sit on the rock and cling to her like a hungry child.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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