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L.A. Affairs: I went on a date with my dead ex-boyfriend

An illustration of a woman looking into the flame of a candle and seeing her late boyfriend.
“He wants you to know he loves you,” the medium said.
(Franziska Barczyk / For The Times)

I felt super excited and nervous about my date with an ex-boyfriend, which surprised me — since he is dead.

Let me explain: When my ex died in 2019, I felt nothing at first. We had dated many, many years earlier, and even though we loved each other, we had many unresolved issues. When we broke up, I’d filed him away in a heart-shaped time capsule, never to be opened again. Moreover, I didn’t have the bandwidth to properly mourn, since I was putting in grueling hours on a film set.

So imagine my surprise when, more than a year after his death, I found some of his songs on the internet , songs he had written about me. They cracked my heart open as if it were a rainbow bleeding all the colors of delayed grief.

We had two dates back in college, and they were both duds. Fast-forward 30 years, and I found a profile on a dating app. Could it be the same guy?

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The songs took me back to a chaotic, passionate time when we lived as young, struggling artists in his Silver Lake shoebox. The deluge of emotions I was feeling was so intense that a mutual friend suggested something I’d never done before: try to connect with him through a psychic medium.

My session with the medium began on Instagram Live, with the medium offering up a disclaimer that, “The deceased you want to communicate with may not show up, so just be open to whomever does.”

I grew concerned that my ex wouldn’t show up for our otherworldly date and half-joked, “Am I going to be ghosted by a ghost?”

But it was no laughing matter when the medium began telling me things about my ex that she couldn’t possibly know.

“There’s someone here who’s thin with dark hair. He’s playing guitar on the floor and singing a poem for you. You lived together.”

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I had chills as I sensed my ex materializing like a film negative coming into focus.

“You have his ashes, his remains.” But wait ... no, I don’t. I assume his family has his ashes. Could she have meant the lyrics that are pieces of his soul? I did have those remains of him.

“Yes,” I agreed.

“You sensed his scent.”

“Yes,” I said, “is that an afterlife aftershave? An afterlife aphrodisiac?” (Humor is my coping mechanism.)

“He wants you to know he loves you,” the medium said.

Being alone in the desert wasn’t the salve I thought it would be after our breakup.

Rosy memories emerged of dancing the night away at Sunset Junction Street Fair, an orange dawn when he handled my cat’s unexpected death for me, yellow coconut curry at our fave Indian cafe.

“He’s obsessed with you.”

I felt angry, confused. Why didn’t he say any of that while he was still alive? How am I supposed to rekindle a romance with a ghost? (A premise for a TV show popped into my mind: “She found the love of her life. There’s only one problem: He’s a ghost.”) Also, why now? I surmised that ghosts operate on ghost time and don’t have any boundaries.

“He wishes he could’ve told you more sooner. He wants to thank you for taking care of him.”

I remembered the amount of energy I invested in his band‘s success so he could afford to take us on a long-dreamed-of trip to Hawaii and then settle down into a stable lifestyle. (I didn’t yet know that I wanted to be on stages, making people feel things with comedy and traveling to exciting places for work.)

Not-so-rosy memories emerged of the year after, when Sunset Junction seemed like a darker carnival of chaos.

I’ve discovered the answer to all those lonely weekends and empty Saturday nights. I call it “Couples Dating.”

The night he said, “We need to talk when we get home,” and I felt green with nausea, dread, envy and suspicions of his surreptitious sexcapades. That’s when he confessed that, even though he had finally gotten sober, his past drug addiction had resulted in a variety of health complications. He said he knew he wouldn’t live as long as me and wanted to spare me that pain. He said we should break up. Bewilderment blues set in.

Through the years, we traded places: The performer I admired settled down, while I turned my tears into relationship jokes that took me around the world as a comedian, performing in Hawaii several times. I didn’t yet know that my subconscious aim was to stay uncommitted and avoid ever being vulnerable again.

“He wants you to know he’s so proud of you,” the medium said. “You helped him heal.”

“What’s the big takeaway?” I asked, still stunned.

“The big takeaway is, love is eternal.”

Afterward I felt like I had some answers, but I also had some questions.

Now that my heart had been cracked open by a person whom I had no way of being with, how was I supposed to deal with trying to get over this during a pandemic? I felt retroactively obsessed with and haunted by my ex, who admittedly seemed way more present as a ghost than he ever did when we dated.

It occurred to me that perhaps someone should create a medium dating app or dating show — “Medium Matchmaker”? — to help folks make peace with their past in order to become present for their future. (You know, because if you’re still stuck in the past, then you’re truly living in a haunted house.) Or since my exes have often become my muses and vice versa, a “muse” dating app for those looking to immortalize their love connection in art ... an app that’s like Meet Cute, but instead it’s called Meet Muse.

Clearly, I had some more exploring to do. I found a therapist who met me on Zoom, and we reprocessed the relationship.

Here I saw the full picture — that of a pivotal, profound love that wasn’t supposed to be any more than it was. I wanted to rescue him and
to be rescued, and instead he was removed so I could rescue myself. I forgave him and myself for any harm caused knowingly or unknowingly and felt like maybe I could finally take off my love-proof protective vest.

I felt transformed by the gift of grief.

For our second date, I’m going to ask my ex if he’ll join me for couples therapy.

The author is an L.A.-based actress, comedian and the creator of the podcast “Let’s Process This With Melinda Hill” and the new comedy special “Inappropriate.” She is on Instagram @realmelindahill.

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 $300 for a published essay. Email LAAffairs@latimes.com. You can find submission guidelines here. You can find past columns here.


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