My friend Stephanie plans to host a viewing party every Sunday night for “Brothers and Sisters.” I’m unwilling to attend the gatherings since I’m still haunted by the show’s lead actress: Sally Field.
I assembled an outfit that would give me both warmth and sex appeal for my second date with Dylan on a cold February night. On our first date I learned that Dylan wasn’t out to his relatives. Suddenly, in my literal closet, it occurred to me that I was worried about what to wear when meeting a closeted 26-year-old who lives with his parents. In New Jersey. Choosing warmth over fashion, I put on a knitted hat and a puffy coat so stuffed it could double as a bulletproof vest.
By the time I arrived at the restaurant in the East Village, Dylan had gotten us a table and ordered me a vodka tonic, the drink I’d been sipping on our first date. Attentive, I thought, as he leaned in to kiss me on the cheek.
Dylan’s lips were remarkably soft, and feeling his skin against my face reminded me of our first night together. I’d invited him back to my studio apartment near Union Square, where after not much time, he went down on me. I came quickly, and then tried to muster the energy to reciprocate. After a lackluster attempt, he said, “Don’t worry about it. You can take care of me next time.” Dylan was the only person who’d been able to get me off from a blowjob. I was eager for date No. 2 to get underway so we could get back under the sheets.
“I avoided the library today so I could watch Steel Magnolias,” I said, sitting down at our booth.
“I am so jealous! That is one of my favorite movies,” Dylan exclaimed in a high pitch. “Sally Field is my all-time favorite actress!”
I respected Sally Field’s work, and commented that her best film was Sybil, where she played a woman with multiple personalities. Dylan had majored in psychology in college, so I asked if he believed multiple personality disorder really existed.
“Sort of,” he said after a long pause. “I think it happens, but not in the way people assume.”
“What do you mean?” I asked as our overpriced twists on traditional American dishes arrived.
Dylan took a sip of his watermelon martini, breathed in deeply, then slowly and with emphasis on each word said, “I think ghosts tell some people what to do, and that can make it look like they have multiple personalities.”
I put down my fork, startled by his confession. “Why do you believe that?” I asked.
Dylan looked around the restaurant, then stared directly at me, lowered his voice and said, “Because I’ve witnessed them, and watched their work. I’ve seen ghosts talk to people and tell them to do crazy things.” Dylan’s dark, brooding features seemed frightening and a bit demonic. I felt like I was on a date with a grown-up version of the kid from The Sixth Sense who’d just creepily whispered, “I see dead people.”
I was shocked and confused. Dylan was the first person I’d liked since my ex had broken up with me seven months earlier. I had already fantasized that we’d court for two years, get a civil union in Vermont and then adopt an Asian baby girl. I’d never dreamed that my future husband would communicate with the dead.
Dylan stared at me, waiting for a response. I didn’t believe in evil spirits, and I definitely didn’t want to enter a relationship with someone who claimed to hang out with them. It’s one thing to have faith in an afterlife—which I don’t—but it’s an entirely different situation to declare that the deceased possess people to make it appear as if they have mental disorders.
I tried to think of something polite and eloquent to say about why I couldn’t share his convictions, but what came out of my mouth was: “Would you like to try a bite of my mashed potatoes? They’re great.”
Dylan passed on the potatoes, and after an awkward silence, changed the subject. For the rest of the meal, I was fixated on trying to recall any previous warning signs that he might be psychotic. Our first two encounters had seemed normal enough.
He was charming, articulate and shared funny stories about his childhood. He was also a noticeably good dresser and had managed to put together a cute outfit for our second date, despite the tundra-like temperatures. After I excused myself to go to the bathroom, I looked in the mirror. In a moment of sudden clarity, I realized the actual warning sign was me. It was still too early to be dating.
In truth, Dylan wasn’t the only person in that restaurant with an awareness of ghosts. Though my ex-boyfriend hadn’t died, his presence haunted me. We had only dated for a year, but he was my first love. I was left with lingering questions, so thought about him often, and felt his presence in so much of my life that I was seeing a shrink to help perform an exorcism of his spirit. When I returned to the table and the waiter asked if we wanted dessert, I declined and requested the check.
I didn’t invite Dylan back to my apartment—and have yet to re-experience such remarkable oral skills. I called my therapist the next morning and requested an emergency session. When I eventually started dating again, I asked each man if he believed in demons, and only one said no. He and I moved in together last autumn, a few weeks after “Brothers and Sisters” became a hit. Our relationship is in a good place, and my ex no longer haunts me. But seeing Sally Field still makes think of Dylan…and poltergeists.
Brett Krutzsch is an administrator at NYU and a freelance writer.