On Dating : Quarantine

On Dating : Quarantine


I am coming home from Seattle when they announce that the world is shutting down. People are dying and this new virus is taking down anyone it can. I am scared, and at the same time, I am not.

My work closes. It has to. I have no way to make money and $50k/month in overhead to think about.

I text my friends. They are in the same boat. Everything is fucked. And since we’re all fucked together, maybe it’s fine.

I decide I want to be in NYC for the lockdown. There are a number of reasons, but Maddy is the main one. I think of it as an opportunity for us to get closer. But, as I’m flying somewhere over the middle of America, I realize that I’m forcing it. And I wonder why I would want to leave the sunshine and open space of California.

The end of the world had me thinking about all kinds of things. Much of that flight consisted of Alexis. And Woody. And being in bed with the three of them feeling this kind of safety that I didn’t know existed. I wanted to talk to her. To tell her I was sorry for not appreciating her more.

But I’ve traveled enough to know not to trust my emotions when I’m on a plane.

My redeye landed at 6AM in Newark.

3.15.20 Tompkins Square Park

Maddy is sitting next to me reading Fleishman. Dogs are barking at each other and a quartet plays Woody Allen jazz music. Some folks with green hair ride skateboards and type-a women in leggings pass through on their way home from the gym.

It was 2-3 minutes after arriving to my apartment and taking off my clothes that I was inside her. There is an ease lying next to her. She fits into my arms and shoulder spaces so well.

I was still hungover from the flight. From the idea that I have no clue what I’m doing or who I actually am. We were playing a game. And I was a willing participant. We were acting out a relationship that politely and articulately talked about its needs and feelings while keeping enough of a smile and tilted head level of interest to look something like love.

We slept on and off for a few hours, finally waking up around Noon. The sun pulled us out onto the streets of East Village.

We did my favorite walk down St. Marks to Astor Pl. where I commented on how much I hate when people talk about “what a city used to be.” We get it, you’ve lived here a long time and want to be acknowledged for that.

Then we turned down Bowery where you can start to see Soho coming on and get a sense of that big NYC feeling.

Finally, Bleecker St. towards West Village where you see it shift into an air of wealth and entitlement that makes you feel like you’re at a party without an invitation.

Every block a different city.

We stopped at a bookshop but it wasn’t glorious and magical. It was like going to a regular bookshop with a regular person. Then we bought a couple records. But it was no longer a scene from an indie movie. It was just use thumbing through bins and me wondering if I even liked records. It was so much more effort than Spotify.

We reversed the course and made our way back to my apartment. I fingered her on the couch. She offered a blowjob in return but I declined. I needed to pace myself if we were going to be in the apartment together while the world was ending.

A week later.

Quarantine is a nice reason to avoid more difficult conversations. Not that we haven’t been speaking about things, but we haven’t really been speaking about things.

NYC isn’t under full lockdown, perse. It’s just that all the restaurants and bars are closed and no one is really doing anything. I ordered all this food for my place and it makes a lot of sense for her to be here because her apartment is the size of a closet and working from home in bed all day can accelerate any impending mental illness that might be lingering in the bloodline. 

We said we’d talk about it Sunday night. We’d sit down and have a go about boundaries and what is healthy and even though they are unique times we should still be cognizant of what constitutes a healthy relationship. We use the word relationship in conversation but always with a distance as though we are talking about an experimental vaccine. It’s just around the corner but neither of us are willing to own it exactly. 

Days later.

It’s Wednesday now. She is sitting on the floor in the living room working on her computer and I’m at the table in the dining room that is soon-to-be office as I am selling this table and replacing it with a desk so we can both stop hitting our upper thighs on the sharp corners as we pass through the room. People are still up for a good mid century furniture score during a viral outbreak. 

We’ve been finding a routine. I am the master of creating routines for two. Everyone who I have ever dated has been involuntarily enrolled in my program. I am not without gain here as well. Having another person to account for makes me want to be more productive and healthy, whether it’s for my own benefit or proving to them how inspiring I am.

In the mornings we both work. Tea will be made (lemon and acv) and sometimes there is music without lyrics. Lyrics are too much for her in the morning and given her hostility towards waking up I am happy not to push her here. Eventually, I will start tooling around in the kitchen making some food. She often says she isn’t hungry or doesn’t eat breakfast and then I make her avocado toast with cottage cheese and she eats it in three bites.  

At around 1PM we will take a break and go for a long walk, often the entirety of her one hour lunch break. Although no one is keeping track because the entire gallery is closed and everyone is “working from home”. 

A few more hours of work follow. Sometimes there is a call. Sometimes a quick run to the store because I’ve convinced myself I need four more pounds of ground beef and a frozen pizza. Grocery shopping for the end of the world is difficult because you want to be economical but you also don’t want to suffer. It’s up to me to dictate that sense of wonder and excitement as to what’s on the plate. A slice of gouda out of nowhere can change the attitude of an entire day. 

In the evenings we’ve been taking another walk. Our step count is between 15,000 – 20,000 every day and that makes me feel accomplished. Mostly, it makes me feel like I will have abs the next morning which is even better than accomplished. 

When we return, we split up and wash our hands in separate sinks for 20 seconds and wonder if we’ve caught the virus.

Then we eat dinner and engage in some form of entertainment. The other night we played Pictionary and I won even though I was being fair and reasonable and encouraging her to take another card if she didn’t like the one she had. It wasn’t hard to tell when she didn’t like it because she would groan or pant or just throw it on the ground. 

Last night, we walked to Washington Square Park and sat on a bench and listened to the quiet of New York City. It was a little over fifty degrees and the chill of the breeze on my face mixed with the buzz of the wine we were drinking out of a carafe made me feel at peace. There was a lone skateboarder in my left ear and a schizophrenic man talking about the end of times in my right. She sat next to me and breathed in the same thoughts and feelings and wore a smile that was both small and sure of itself.  I liked being with this person.

We’ve also been watching Cheer on Netflix. I’ve seen it already and she refused to take my advice to watch it for the last couple weeks even though my recommendations on TV and movies travel side by side with the voice of god. 

We finished episode 5 (of 6) after the park and I believe she was sweating on her brow at the intensity and care she had for the show. I smiled the smile of someone who was right all along and doesn’t even have to say anything. 

One Day Later.

I am writing this and she is working through her variety of lying down wfh positions on the couch and likely researching an obscure piece of art that her gallery needs to acquire from a small village farmer in a remote Scandinavian village. Although I don’t think that has anything to do with what she actually does. 

I think I will suggest that she goes back to her place on Friday and we spend Saturday apart as well. She can come back Sunday and stay with me until I leave on Wednesday. I’m going back to California. The shutdown is going to be real and this cement grid is getting annihilated.

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