My girlfriend and I celebrated our one-year anniversary over FaceTime, each of us curled up in a blanket fort, 1,600 miles apart. We ate dinner “together,” opened gifts that we’d sent by mail, and played games. By the end of the evening I was in tears, overjoyed to have such a special person in my life, yet heartsick after nearly four months of our unplanned distance, which still has no end in sight.
In mid-March, my girlfriend got a late-night phone call from her parents, asking her to come home to Texas immediately, in anticipation of a New York City pandemic lockdown. Assuming she would be back within a few weeks, she agreed to go, and eight hours later she was in Houston.
Less than a week later, my mom and I decided it was time to quarantine. As the Covid cases began to climb in the U.S., so did my anxiety. I worried about my health, which is already weakened by chronic illness and a compromised immune system. I gave up my babysitting job and my other work went remote. We began to have our groceries delivered and to sanitize them meticulously when they arrived. But still, I felt vulnerable.
For months, my girlfriend and I had little to do but miss each other. We sent letters and care packages. We watched movies together over FaceTime. We spent hours on the phone reassuring ourselves that this would all be over soon and discussing all the things we would do together over the summer—then, when summer came and went, what we’d do in the fall. It was a depressing game of pretend, compounded by the fact that just weeks before the pandemic took over everyone’s lives, we had decided to move in together.
Now, we complain about how unfair it all is, then check our privilege: we are safe, with technology that allows us to see each other’s faces and hear each other’s voices every day.
In a perfect world, my girlfriend would find a job she could do remotely, so that she could afford to return to the city. Until a safe and effective vaccine is widely available, that’s the only way we’ll be able to reunite—because the only jobs that seem to be hiring are positions for essential workers, which would pose a health risk for me.
My negativity and gratitude come in alternating waves. I want to hug the person I love, but I am grateful to have someone to miss, and that she is safe. I worry about my health, but I am fortunate to have a job that allows me to work remotely. Like everyone, I am impatient and afraid, but I know that this moment will end. And until then, I will remind myself to choose gratitude, and blanket forts and FaceTime.
Arielle Silver-Willner is Lilith’s Editorial Assistant (and former intern!) and a frequent contributor to the Lilith blog and magazine. She works part-time in childcare and spends her free time taking photos and trying to finish her first novel.