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L.A. Affairs: We moved in together just as the pandemic hit

A couple feeling trapped together inside their home.
The novelty of doing everything together — grocery runs, lazy movie nights, daily walks — dissipated, leaving behind a stale, tepid routine.
(Rachelle Hall / For The Times)

After a long day spent moving me into his Hancock Park apartment, my boyfriend, Robin, and I ordered hot wings, opened a bottle of wine and celebrated a new chapter of cohabitation. Sitting on a pile of moving boxes, I licked my sticky fingers and said, “At least working from home for two weeks will give me time to unpack.”

Robin frowned. “I don’t think this is going to be two weeks.”

On the weekend of March 14, our relationship had changed literally overnight. It wasn’t just our two-year anniversary and our first night living together, but we’d suddenly gone from being two individuals with whole, separate lives to being a single, quarantined entity.

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Robin and I met at the Director’s Guild two years prior. A short film of my brother’s that Robin had sound designed was playing at a small festival. At the time, I was in a new entry-level job, so a $40 ticket and a 9 p.m. showing stretched both my budget and my limit for family obligation. But I was five years single and in no position to turn down the possibility of mingling over a little inconvenience.

I picked Robin out of the crowd almost instantly. His dark, curly hair and scruffy beard were sharpened by his maroon blazer and dark-washed jeans. We bantered over the price of the tickets (which no one ended up checking) and how, as someone with a severe tree nut allergy, I’d cultivated a pet peeve for Los Angeles’ faux allergy to gluten and dairy. It was a true battle of wits filled with subtle winks and giggles that said, “I may be interested, but I’m just fine going home alone.”

Our quippy dynamic that night, that proud sense of “I like you, but I don’t need you,” created a magnetic tension that sustained our relationship for two years.

My path seeking love had been long and circuitous and took me through many L.A.-area neighborhoods. I kept looking for “The One” but kept getting stuck with “Not This One.”

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We operated like two steel pendulums unwilling to give in to each other’s pull. He’d invite me for dinner at his place and I’d leave by midnight, claiming the need for a good night’s sleep. We’d talk about our workdays to impress each other: his wins at his tech job and my latest promotion. I’d pick a restaurant that clearly showed my casual yet refined taste, and he’d pick a show that made him look effortlessly fun. Our relationship thrived on our being individuals, venturing out into the world and coming back to each other with fresh perspectives.

The idea of moving in together was a slow burn until it became a fiery “yes.” Battling cross-city commutes and hauling sleepover bags to work had become a chore. But the decision to live together required a lot of thought and negotiation. We both wanted alone time, enough space to unwind after work and a clear definition of what constituted a dirty sink.

Leading up to our move-in day, we made a commitment to prioritize ourselves while building a new home together. As we unpacked the last of my boxes, my office declared a work-from-home mandate and Los Angeles went into full-fledged pandemic mode. Instantly, our plan to preserve our independently full lives had become obsolete.

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I set up shop on our kitchen table, trying to turn this new space into both my new home and now my office. Suddenly, all the quirks of his decor that I’d previously written off as charming felt like eyesores: his long gray curtains, a broken Ikea bookshelf and records hung just a little crooked. I became restless and obsessed with changing everything from the couch to the lightbulbs. It wasn’t just a matter of style but an attempt at finding my sense of self in an otherwise chaotic and unfamiliar world.

After a few weeks, our efforts to preserve the spark of our pre-pandemic relationship were outpaced by the reality of quarantine. It wasn’t that we fought or even stopped loving each other but that the outside world was no longer there to charge our batteries. At first we embraced it. We looked at quarantine as an opportunity to spend more time together since life before had become a whirlpool of calendar invites and long commutes. But as the days rolled on, the novelty of doing everything together — grocery runs, lazy movie nights, our daily walk around the neighborhood — dissipated, leaving behind a stale, tepid routine.

During one standard Saturday morning run — after months of never being apart — Robin asked if he could go out ahead of me. He was a faster runner, but I knew what he really wanted was a moment to himself. He went. And for the first time in months, I found myself in my own company. I continued to run, winding through the tall trees of Hancock Park, appreciating how good it felt to have no one around.

Somewhere in the midst of trying to re-create the outside world within the confines of our walls, we’d forgotten our initial promise: that prioritizing ourselves as individuals would breathe life into our relationship.

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Eventually, running would become our alone time. I’d head out early in the mornings, feeling recharged by the cool air and the steadiness of my breath. Robin would go on evening runs, leaving the house still and quiet. It was time I needed to recall the energy between us when we would reconnect after days apart.

Before long, I’d hear his keys jingling in the door and the brief moment of space between us would close, that same electricity igniting again.

The author is a branded content writer living in Los Angeles. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram as @carmenrising.

Straight, gay, bisexual, transgender or nonbinary — L.A. Affairs chronicles the search for love in and around Los Angeles, and we want to hear your story. The story you tell has to be true, and you must allow your name to be published, We pay $300 for each essay we publish. Email us at LAAffairs@latimes.com. You can find submission guidelines here.


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