We met up in the middle of the night at a Starbucks parking lot that was halfway for both of us. I sat numb in his car for hours as he told me “this wasn’t the right time,” and “maybe if we met earlier or later this would’ve worked.” By around 1 a.m., he ended our relationship with an “I hope one day we can at least be friends.”
I drove away first. I could’ve waited for him to change his mind and take it all back, but I left as quickly as I could, avoiding my rearview mirror for one last look.
I had officially experienced the beginning and end of a relationship entirely in quarantine.
I met him last summer through mutual friends — he gave good hugs, always asked how I was doing. He admired my writing and read all my articles. I admired the way he danced, being a dancer myself. I thought we’d be good together, in this lifetime or any other, and he felt the same.
We had our first date at the start of lockdown. He made dinner at my apartment, and we clicked instantly. We spent nearly everyday together the weeks after, wandering the empty streets of Seattle as if we were the only people in the world. We’d sleep in every morning with no responsibilities to attend to, and talk all night about the things we could do once this was all over. It felt like a dream — I was completely mesmerized by him. I had relationships before, but these butterflies were new. For the first time, I thought I could’ve been in love.
But dreams don’t last forever, and eventually we both woke up to realize that we had grievances from our pasts and different outlooks on the world that had started rapidly changing around us.
“I don’t think I’m in love with you, but I do love you,” he said that night in the parking lot.
We were together for three months, but after our breakup, my brain blocked out any memories I had of that time. I drove myself crazy not knowing if he was even real or just one long quarantine delusion.
At first, I tried to just bury it all. When the protests for George Floyd started, and especially after we broke up, I was in full survival mode, only focused on surviving a pandemic that felt like the government had abandoned us in, and the revolution against that same system that inflicted never-ending violence on Black and Indigenous people.
I was terrified to just be alive, especially in this new world I only knew with him. I stayed awake most nights with anxiety attacks that made me lose my breath, and eventually the pain he left me with hit a boiling point — I had to deal with these emotions and move forward somehow. But I didn’t know how to do that anymore — I was too numb to write or do summer quarter work to distract me like how I usually deal with heartbreak, and just seeing my friends, let alone meeting new people, was still a risk.
So how the f--- was I supposed to move on in a global pandemic?
I started small: I wrote out reminders of small tasks to complete when I woke up and put them on my mirror. Make your bed, open your blinds, remember what’s in your control.
With no deadlines to meet or social life to attend to, I took this circumstance as a forcible sign from the universe that this time, I had to process all my hurt feelings to their fullest extent instead of running away from them.
For a while, that last conversation was the only vivid memory I had left of our relationship. I yelled into the air what I couldn’t say to him until my words turned into tears. I was so mad at him for making me feel like this, so hurt at him for leaving so easily. Finally, I took these feelings and channeled them into creativity.
I impulsively cut my long hair for the first time and was actually proud of it. Since the news writer in me was not good at writing about my own feelings, I decided to try my hand at poetry. I started dancing again, and made playlists like love letters that maybe he’d read one day. I got excited to spend days alone, getting to re-know myself with these pains that were now a part of me.
I wove in and out of depressive episodes. I got frustrated every time I’d fall back into one, feeling like nothing I was doing to move on was even working. I added another note to my mirror: healing is not linear.
After the stay-at-home order was lifted, I started seeing two of my best friends again. With not much to do, we still managed to entertain ourselves. We went on long drives and switched off who was on the aux, talking about each song’s meaning in our lives. We grabbed drinks at any 24-hour coffee stand and longboarded at sunset just to have deep talks. Their company and the pink skies made me smile again for the first time in months, taking in the good moments life still gave me.
Eventually, I got out of my creative rut and wrote two articles for The Daily. I was so proud of them, and I jumped around my apartment in tears when they made the popular page. Working again reminded me of what I still have to offer this world, and what it has to offer me.
He has never left my thoughts, but this new normal has had a way of making me much more aware of the moments that make me feel alive. He went into every piece of art I created, every small step of progress that pushed me forward. I found ways to fill the space he left behind.
My memory of him started to slowly come back, the good and the bad. I took it as a sign that I was healing.
The dream we created in the beginning didn’t last forever. It is often assumed that quarantine puts life on pause, but it has moved faster than ever for me. Our relationship flashed before our eyes, and it was too late before we realized reality had caught up to us. It felt so meant-to-be in any other time, except the one we were in.
Dating, love, and heartbreak are different now, and we all have to find new ways to navigate it. Healing for me is different too, but perhaps that’s the way it should have always been.
Reach writer Maya Tizon at email@example.com. Twitter: @mayaxcruzt
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