I have notes and unfinished drafts of blog posts sitting on my computer that I’m not sure what to do with. A post about my landlord showing up unannounced after 48 days of not seeing anyone else, a post about my irregular period and the ways my body has been betraying me during quarantine, a post about a neighbor without a mask who approached me on a walk asking if he could pet my dog.
I could finish these things, and maybe I’ll come back to them to share later. Maybe there is still some value in the feelings that were captured during that time. But right now they feel utterly unimportant. The longer we’re isolated from everyone else, the harder it’s becoming to see what is important. And maybe that’s the depression talking, maybe it’s quarantine fatigue. But I’ve really been struggling lately with cultivating and sustaining a sense of optimism.
In the beginning of the pandemic, the polycule joked that once this is all over, the next time we get together as a group we would spend the whole time just crying and holding each other. It felt like that moment was just a few weeks away, and that we would soon go back to the way things were.
But I’ve slowly been coming to the realization that this watershed moment is just a fantasy. Getting together as a group, being in the same space without masks and melting into a cuddle puddle, is months, if not a year, away. The climactic release of a moment where we can all be together and breathe in each other’s smells is no longer realistic.
The return to “normal,” or something like it, will be incremental. We will continue these socially distanced dates for a while, and eventually we’ll move to physical dates with just a couple people at a time. But who even knows what that might look like, or when, because case numbers continue to soar and the wait times for tests are rendering some of them practically useless.
At the end of May, we saw Jace and Julie, who came over for a socially-distanced date in our backyard. We set up blankets in the grass and ate sandwiches while we laughed at the dog running around chasing bugs.
When they came over, it had been 68 days since I had seen anyone in a social capacity. It was strange to share a space with them again—there were feelings as though no time had passed at all and like it had been a lifetime. The tug I felt to run up and hug them when they entered the backyard and as they were getting up to leave was an incredible ache I’ve never felt before.
We’ve had a couple other socially distanced dates since then including a Fourth of July barbecue with Anthony and Selena. While seeing people in-person again has been a reprieve, it also has been a whole new level of exhausting compared to video calls. The infinite mental calculus required of analyzing everyone’s body in space means being unable to be fully present: Are we at least six feet apart? How about now? If I hand them that napkin, is it now useless? Should I wash my hands again?
On those limited occasions that we have seen people, I find myself emotionally and physically depleted afterward. Yes, it’s still rewarding and necessary for us as social beings, but it is still draining. Having to withhold that affection and intimacy serves as a reminder that this isn’t normal and won’t be for a very long time.
The idea that the eight of us will all be together, holding each other—which was the thing getting me through all of this at the beginning—feels so far off that I’ve begun to forget about it, like a dream you try to remember when you first wake up but the harder you think about it, the more it evaporates from your consciousness.