This is part of a series of personal essays we're calling Stories from Seattle, contributed by our community and designed to show how the coronavirus pandemic is impacting the lives of Seattleites. Want to share your story, coping mechanisms, wildest ideas? We’d love to hear. Please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The first time I realized the coronavirus was going to be a thing, I was sitting in a fluorescent-lit classroom filled with students from around the world endeavoring to learn Spanish at Mexico City’s National Autonomous University of Mexico.
I am a Minneapolis-based freelance writer, but for the last four years, I’ve spent a handful of months each winter in Mexico with my collie-golden mix, Gus, and two surfboards by my side. Now, through a series of strange and improbable coronavirus-inspired events, I'm grounded in Seattle, with a new boyfriend, and living temporarily in a new city.
My boyfriend and I had been friends for many years, but only reconnected last fall after cross-country moves. With my roots firmly planted in a tiny black house shrouded in prairie grasses in south Minneapolis and him recently relocating from California to Seattle, stolen time in the form of long weekends and strategically planned work trips were all we had.
Even as the pandemic exposed the fragility of the United States to be on par with that of the man charged with leading it, it was difficult to square what I was reading with what I was experiencing. In March, as friends in San Francisco began weeks of sheltering in place while others in New York questioned whether or not to stay in the city, life continued relatively normally for me. I worked, surfed, and read Educated in a hammock suspended from the coral orange walls of my friend’s open air hostel. I enjoyed mezcal old fashioneds from bars open as usual while toilet paper became scarce in the States. While a handful of my Mexican friends started a bit of social distancing, boosted their normal cleaning routines, and worried about the inevitability of the virus making its way to Mexico, with the federal government largely silent on the topic, life for most continued on as normally as ever. The degree to which the U.S. had begun falling apart was difficult to conceive in a country so dedicated to living in the moment.
As Seattle emerged as the epicenter in the U.S., it wasn't clear if Patrick would be able to visit on the 18th as planned. He finally arrived that afternoon, but the following day, Thursday, March 19th, the State Department issued a global Level 4 travel advisory, advising all U.S. citizens to return home or be prepared to be outside of the country for an “indefinite period.” We hastily booked cheap tickets for Saturday before prices jumped. Two days later we were in a taxi from Sayulita to Puerto Vallarta—six hours ahead of our scheduled departure, just to be safe.
Suddenly, I’ve found myself somewhere I wasn’t sure I’d ever be: Living with a partner in a city I hadn’t been to in over 15 years.
Now, we’re living together in a Capitol Hill studio apartment after six months of dating and only a handful of times spent together. My first time living with a partner consists of waking up together, working next to each other, cooking together, eating together, and falling asleep together day in and day out. No drinks with friends, no date nights at a restaurant—just togetherness.
Yet, I’ve gotten to see a side of Seattle that few non-tourists will. With next to no traffic in a city notorious for it, day trips and long walks have revealed a city by the sea that becomes electric with joy whenever the sun comes out. Sharing a nearly impossibly small space has made me love Patrick even more, as I see the depths to which his genuine kindness, thoughtfulness, and acceptance run for everyone in his life, from work calls filled with making sure each person on his team has had a chance to speak to whipping up mini-meals for Gus every time he cooks (which is all the time!). Now, ever being apart from each other again seems like the impossible task.
What could be seen as the ultimate gauntlet of a relationship test has instead been a welcome reprieve from living halfway across the country from each other. The pandemic brought my new reality into sharp focus: I’m part of a pair (a family, in fact, when Gus is factored in). If the virus has taught us anything yet, it’s that the connections we have to others and the people we love are what’s going to get us through this.
Before COVID-19, we daydreamed of the days when we’d have uninterrupted stretches of time together in the same place. While these are far from the circumstances we imagined, everything we couldn’t wait for has arrived.