I went to see my boyfriend, Luis, perform at the Whisky a Go Go in Hollywood recently. I drove over from the Valley with our friend Michael, who I've known since our daughters were in preschool together, plus a friend of his I had just met that night.
As we parked the car and made our way down Sunset, Michael turned to his friend and said with a broad smile, "Wait till you see them together. Melissa and Luis, they're soul mates."
It immediately struck me, Luis and I are soul mates?!
But what about me and my husband?
Joel and I had been together for 20 years. We built a life together, built our respective careers, had a child, made a home. At age 45 he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. He died five years later. That was three years ago.
Almost as if reading my mind, I saw a flash on Michael's face, one he quickly covered. "I mean, as much as you can have a soul mate, given the circumstances."
Luis and Joel knew each other.
Luis was our daughter's guitar teacher, and Joel would typically take her to her lesson. Joel was in the music business, so he and Luis would talk shop. When I first met Luis, it felt like we already knew each other. I liked his energy, and I thought he was attractive. I called my friend who recommended him to us. "No one told me that the guitar teacher is so hot!" I said. She laughed and said, "Oh, get in line; we all have crushes on Luis."
If Joel were still here, that would have been the end of the story.
A few months after Joel died, I came across some music gear in the garage, stuff I didn't even know we had — guitars, pedals, amplifiers. I had no idea what to do with it all. I ran into Luis in Studio City one night. Like everyone at the time, he offered his condolences. "Listen, if there's anything I can help with, please don't hesitate to ask." So I mentioned the music gear. Luis came over and, over the course of a few weeks, he helped me get rid of almost everything.
At this point, I was deep in mourning and dealing with the things left behind. Clothes were donated, CDs and a ping-pong table were sold or given away. I had no thoughts of romance. Until … Luis needed me to sign off on the sale of one last guitar. So I went with him to Ventura Music on the boulevard. Afterward, we went to lunch down the street. Halfway through my cheese enchiladas, I got that feeling that maybe, perhaps, kind of, that it wasn't just a lunch but, possibly, a date? Had I been certain, I probably would have ordered a salad (or at least washed my hair or put on clean clothes. These tasks are merely concepts in the early months of widowhood.)
There was an ease between us; he really listened when I spoke. We bonded over both being single parents, albeit under very different circumstances … and he was happy to talk about Joel. I found it comforting.
In the weeks following, with all of the music gear gone, I missed hearing from him … until he left me a voice mail. I was both nervous and excited. Without overthinking it, which for me is a big deal, we went on a bona fide date (I even washed my hair) and then another date and another. That was two years ago.
I think we're both surprised that what could have been a fling has turned into a real relationship.
But are we soul mates?
When people are young and just dipping into the waters of adulthood, so much seems at stake with every romantic partner. Is this someone I could marry? Someone I could have children with? Do I want to grow old with this person?
But love feels different now at "middle" age. It's calmer. Easier. Less dramatic.
This much is certain. Luis and I are deeply connected. We enjoy each other's company. We laugh and have fun and travel well together. Our kids even approve (which, when you have teenagers, is kind of a big deal). We both agree that referring to each other as "boyfriend" or "girlfriend" feels insignificant, considering the depth of our feelings for each other. We haven't come up with another term yet, though. Michael may have been onto something.
The author is a screenwriter who has also written for Huffington Post, BuzzFeed and Modern Loss. Her website is MelissaGould.net.
L.A. Affairs chronicles the current dating scene in and around Los Angeles. We pay $300 a column. If you have comments or a true story to tell, email us at LAAffairs@latimes.com.
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