6 months after the official demise of my last relationship, we meet on Instagram.
I don’t know much about you, and you definitely know nothing about me. I see your icon in my story views. I’m trying to stop being this person - who fixates on views, and takes it as a sign that something might happen. My brain is hard-wired to pick it all apart. It’s what I get paid to do, and I’m good at it. My brain always finds a meaning for the ways people behave online.
It’s February. You post a video. I swipe up and respond. You send me a track ID.
We don’t speak further. Your icon is in my views. Regularly it seems. Almost every time you post on Instagram you come to check in on me. I try not to fixate on the pattern and think much of it.
I swipe through apps. I meet several men, men I want to try on for now, but not much longer than that. My heart is tender but open, bruised but capable. I go through my routine. It’s comfortable. An easy flirtation here, a one night stand there. I keep it light, cycling through each man, never letting anyone in.
I get over my past by meeting new people, and the apps (and New York) would have you believe there is an infinite supply. Deep down I just want something simple and easy that sticks. Someone to build a world with.
It’s early March.
I spend what would come to be the “last weekend” at a club, a tattoo shop, a restaurant. I never go out this much. For some reason, this weekend I feel an urgency to spend every moment soaking in New York.
There’s supposedly a new pandemic. We all think it’s not going to be that much worse than the flu. “I lived in New York through Ebola, it can’t be much worse than that,” I say to assuage my mom’s worries as she begs me to come home.
My sister leaves.
I hug her tightly on March 14th and escort her downstairs with two suitcases. I think she will be back sooner rather than later. I miss her already.
I fall into a new routine. The virus gets worse. I miss my schedule of things that supposedly make my life worth living. Several nights seated at the bar at my favorite restaurant, people watching, coffee from my favorite coffee shop, 3 hours spent in my nail tech’s chair. I have some optimism but I’m mostly afraid.
I spend 2 entire weeks inside. I don’t even dare go to the laundry room or my apartment building’s lobby. I’m terrified to leave the house.
Every single day, I wake up, I do a YouTube workout video. I work on damage control at work. I fixate on the cognitive dissonance I feel at the world falling apart as I do my stupid fucking routine. My parents beg me to come home.
Or if I’m not going to leave New York, at least go outside.
I’m terrified. Every night I fall asleep to sirens. Every morning I wake up to sirens. There are nights where the birds begin chirping at 2AM. Everything feels symbolic. The days pass in a blur. There’s always something to watch. I stare into the screen all day.
We speak on Instagram.
You tell me it’s been two weeks since you saw anyone at all. I jokingly quip I miss my old routine of $5 coffees. I become uncomfortably aware at the premise that this period is the transition between my “old life,” and what is to come.
The virus surges. Dead bodies fill up refrigerated trucks lining the streets.
You swipe on my story again. We speak. We discuss neighborhoods. The conversation goes flirtatious. I have my routine. I know how to make you want me. It’s keeping you that will be hard.
You suggest we meet when we can be within six feet of each other. I give you my number. A part of me hopes I can build a world with you. I haven’t felt that in a long time.
You text me. A series of emoji that hint at us together, yet apart. A few weeks go by. We Facetime. My heart is open, tender yet bruised. You want to see me. You tell me that you'll do what I want to be comfortable.
I announce my stipulations. That it would be me, only me. I want a chance to build a world with you.
A few months go by, in a comfortable routine, a fondness that grows. The inside jokes, the learned intimacy when you really get under a person’s skin, when you spend 16-18 hours together as the world you both knew seems to fall apart and come back together again.
My sister comes back. I hold her for what feels like 5 minutes. I settle her into her new apartment.
You become my friend at the end of the world. I become yours. We have a new kind of intimacy, one formed through convenience, but also a kind of intimacy forged because we have to do the work. We have one another and for now that feels special and good. We see each other through the world falling apart and coming together, again, and again.
We create our own world. We cook one another dinner. We drink wines whose names I don’t ever seem to remember. You do my dishes. I force you to hold my feet in your lap even though I know you hate it.
I hold you when you feel deep frustration and unfairness in June.
You go away most of July.
We soak in August.
You take a painting I made home.
I give you a piece of my tender but bruised heart. You give me some of yours.
2.5 seasons pass.
And just as the world around us falls apart and comes together again, and repeats, you decide the world we’ve built isn’t worth holding on to.
I let you out of my apartment one last time.
I pointedly latch the deadbolt. I hope you hear it as you go down the stairs. I want you to feel the hurt you’re putting me through. I want you to understand the symbolism of me latching the bolt.
I shut you out. You are no longer in my world.
I stop believing in the world we built.
Fresh tears in my eyes, I frantically text my friends a single line.
I see you pop up in my views again.
I mute you on instagram.
I change your name in my contacts.