I had been out with Isaac* only six times. Typically, I like to date multiple people at the same time and sabotage my chances with all of them at once so that I die alone. You know, normal 30-something-year-old stuff. He was dependable; never did I wonder if he got my text or if he was going to message me back. He even had his goddamn read receipts on. Even though I was still suspicious of everything about him, I started to allow myself to get to know him without the company of someone else on the side. But as things started to get more serious, both with us as well as with the outbreak of COVID-19, I started to panic. I didn’t want to be alone during the pandemic, but I also wasn’t sure yet that I wanted to be with only him.
After a handful of dates, was I really ready to commit to spending an extreme amount of time with him? It was too late to meet someone new — we were way too far into the pandemic. The questions began to fill my mind and I was left wondering: If Isaac were the last person in the world, would I spend the rest of my life with him?
How would I feel about the type of relationship I had signed up for once things inevitably went back to normal? Would I even recognize myself?
As borders closed, events canceled, and social distancing became the norm, the answer to that question started to become a strong yes. I’ve been notoriously half-single for well over a decade — the only thing I hate more than commitment is being alone. But suddenly, being with one person didn’t seem so bad. I started to grow jealous of friends in long-term relationships; jealous of anyone who didn’t have to brave the grocery store by themselves. Isaac was suddenly…my soulmate.
My mind began to wonder what it would be like to be a real couple. I could cook for him if he could figure out my carbon monoxide detector. We’d be domestic, heteronormative, and monogamous, and I’d make my parents proud. And most importantly, I wouldn’t be forced to weather this pandemic all alone.
In the back of my mind, though, I wondered if it was the pandemic talking or these were my own original thoughts. I certainly hadn’t considered being in a monogamous relationship in a while, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about being part of a traditional couple. Maybe settling down with Isaac because of COVID-19 was a recipe for resentment. Maybe I was only imagining a future with him because the thought of being alone was unbearable. How would I feel about the type of relationship I had signed up for once things inevitably went back to normal? Would I even recognize myself?
In a cruel twist of fate, I’ll never have to find out. While I was selfishly wondering whether I could handle monogamy, the world decided to teach me a lesson and rip Isaac from my already loose grip. Isaac lost his job and left the state to be with his children during this trying time, leaving us in a strange limbo during an even stranger time.
Before the pandemic, I would’ve screamed in his face, “You’re fuckin’ USELESS!” upon hearing such heinous news. But, COVID-19 has changed me: I have no control over my own health, let alone another person’s movements. And frankly, Isaac made the right decision. I wouldn’t want to be with someone who didn’t attempt to be with their children in a time like this, and I would never make him feel guilt over it. I have no choice but to go at it — it being this pandemic — alone. I’m cherishing my phone calls with Isaac and am no longer nervous if our relationship will survive because, at this point, I have bigger things to worry about.
For others out there like me: The ones who find it difficult to be alone. The ones who normally fill their time up with social obligations and work so they never have to sit alone with their thoughts. The ones with mental illness, who are more worried about isolation than the virus itself. You are not alone. I am waiting out the social distancing with you and strongly advise playing online “Family Feud.”
*Name has been changed.