In the Age of COVID
Joan Didion is, arguably, my idol (although I cannot leave Diana Ross out of this conversation). But in the writer’s world, she is the one. If you follow me, once in awhile you’ll see quotes of her work in my stories. It’s because they are raw, and they tear at my heart. What she has been through.
However, my favorite single quote of hers, and maybe of all time, comes from her book, “The Year of Magical Thinking”. (Get this: I didn’t even know what magical thinking meant until I started dating a narcissist.) It goes like this:
“Life changes fast.
Life changes in the instant.
You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.
The question of self-pity.”
Death comes in many forms. In the above instance, it had to do with the death of her husband occurring at, of course, the dinner table. Life changes in the instant. I used that quote in the eulogy for my son, who died of suicide last year. News of his passing was much the same.
For Joan Didion, that was a double whammy. It wasn’t just the death of her husband, but the death of a relationship and companionship that had lasted forty years.
My relationship had only lasted a paltry eight years. That was after a marriage to a woman for 13 years, and then my first gay relationship, which also lasted eight years.
Still, eight years is a lot. It represents much time spent with another human being, and if it lasted that long, it must have been of substance. He was my everything. There wasn’t anything I wouldn’t do for him. His reciprocation was more remunerative in nature. I was the weaker one, financially.
Was that a 1:1 trade?
The warning signs were there. I won’t get into the nitty-gritty. They could have been worked out. Instead, on June 28, 2018, he came home from work and announced: “I am putting the condo up for sale, and we are breaking up”.
And so it was, that matter-of-factly.
My life changed in the instant. I thought we were together forever. I didn’t know the events that preceded this had brought him to such a moment, for surely he would have talked about them. But he didn’t, and his mind was made up.
We shared the same birthdate: 10/24/1957. He was just a few hours older than me. I stupidly thought that alone would keep us together, that we had that much in common. We were 60 when the breakup occurred.
Having lived in New Mexico for a few years after I graduated from college, I knew that was where I wanted to retire. Or at least somewhere in the Southwest. Seems most folks in Chicago retired in Florida, but neither one of us was fond of that state and it’s oppressive humidity. We took a couple of trips to New Mexico and he really liked it, so we began to look at homes and property.
But that wasn’t meant to be. When the split occurred, while I had many friendships that I treasure to this day, in the end, there was nothing left for me in Chicago. I had wrung it out. Unemployed at the time, Chicago was also far too expensive an undertaking to even consider staying. He wanted me out ASAP, ostensibly so that the condo could be shown without my influence. A couple of trips back and forth to procure living arrangements, and off I went into an unknown destiny.
“Point Me, in the Direction of Albuquerque” — The Partridge Family
All I did in the first year in my new city was cry. All I felt was loneliness and despair. I wasn’t supposed to be dumped at 60. Sadness and anger, day after day. APD only had to come visit me for a wellness check twice, which I thought was pretty good. My friends on Facebook are to be credited for that, stating that I was saying things that could possibly endanger my life.
Eventually I was in good enough shape to look for, and go to, a job every day. It was at the airport, so I was in familiar surroundings, with a company I had formerly worked for. It was normalizing. Now all I needed was a mate.
And then COVID-19 hit.
Just when I was feeling good enough to put myself out there again to date, this wicked illness killed all of that. Quarantining. Isolation. There were few options, although we could go hiking. But even that presumed that you knew someone to go with. Friendships don’t just happen through osmosis.
I needed to be touched. It is a sensation that has no match, and there has to be another person involved.
I always think of that song “I Touch Myself” by the Divinyls when I feel that way. I think of songs that tend to mirror my place, or my mood.
Touching yourself gets boring after awhile.
Now what I have are the gay hookup sites. Albuquerque has a smaller pond of men than Chicago, so I quite often find myself catering to the whims of visitors in hotels. It’s a one time commitment, and I can find an entirely new one the next night. At least I get touched.
There are some locals that I would like to date (read: come over to my house and have sex), but they don’t seem to feel the same way.
So here I am, at 63, single and alone in Albuquerque, with not too many prospects. I am not a needy person, but I prefer the intimacy of a companion to that of a series of liaisons.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. But life changed.