I met my partner at a 2020 Christmas Potluck for queers. We had like three dates. Then they moved to Fresno for a month for work, then the pandemic happened and I began sheltering at home as a #HighRiskCovid19 person. So we were physically separated for half the start of our relationship. Then we said we love you over a fire in my back yard after getting drunk together many times without being allowed to touch each other. And then we adopted a cat. After I nearly died (here’s the link to that story).
Below, my new (!) partner and I share a bit of our story that continues to develop behind the scenes in the midst of a global pandemic rivaling the flu of 1918.
I’ve already told a lot of you that I now use they/them/their pronouns. You can learn more about what that means here.
Last week, I saw my partner of now four months and we took a rare drive out of their backyard to Sutter’s Landing where we sat on an American flag and drank whiskey out of a prescription bottle. They rolled up their pants and went into the water while I got stubbornly sunburnt. We drove around the city, masks on, seats covered, windows down. We are loving each other during a global pandemic and sometimes it means learning to be with someone, 6-ft apart.
I bought a house last year, and it’s turned into the perfect quarantine zone for a blazing love story.
Literally, in my backyard. Our first time saying “I love you” was perfect pandemic-style, with face masks on and thick layers of blankets between us, Emily hugging me from behind, while a fire burned in front of us. No skin was involved. We’re learning how to build a relationship when we can’t touch each other.
In new relationships I’ve been accustomed to doing everything I can to touch the person I’m dating. Now we’re suddenly in a four month relationship, barely knowing each other, and suddenly doing everything we possibly can to NOT touch each other. It’s the exact opposite of what life was before. We are reconstructing the meaning of falling in love, and it’s harder – so much harder – than before to keep the desire for intimacy alive.
Who is this creature I fell for, in the midst of a pandemic beginning across the world that we would only hear of days after meeting each other?
Who is this person I’ve only been on a handful of dates with before they had to move for work temporarily just before I realized I should shelter at home to protect my life?
Who is this person who sleeps in my kitchen a few times a month to help co-parent our new stray cat?
Who held my gloved hand in the ER when I was dying (but not really)?
Who held me from behind through multiple layers of blankets while we said we loved each other for the first time after crying together over the fate of the world?
This person is my partner.
I met you not looking for anything at all. I just arrived, decorations in tow, to celebrate our beautiful local queer community at a Queery Christmas event. What I didn’t expect was to find someone that would reach into my heart and ignite it. I came early to set the place up. It was small and mighty dusty and needed some work to make it a queer Christmas Wonderland. Everyone showed up with a little bit of everything that was needed—I brought some house plants because they needed the attention and added so much to the festivities.
I noticed you immediately, tall with buzzed brown (lil strains of grey) hair and strong eyes. You were wearing a blue shirt with a they/them pin that I thought was so cute, your glasses also lined with a similar shade of blue. You smirked at me in a way that now feels familiar. The room was small, with only enough space to hold a table and food on the perimeter of the space. I knew if I was to chat with you in any real capacity I would have to sit next to you, so as soon as you left to use the restroom, I strategically placed myself next to you. Apparently in your very seat. You thought it was funny (I – Charis – was secretly delighted) as I apologized for taking your seat while simultaneously introducing myself. You were (are) hot and I was nervous internally, shaking your hand and witnessing its features. (Pre-COVID days) We made conversation quickly after you commented on how pretty the plants were. I told you I had brought them and you lit up. We must have talked about our cats for 20 minutes.
I remember everyone was at the table until there was no one but a focused vision of you and our conversation and laughter. The queermas party participants had a card game we sort of joined into, folks calling us the “Siamese twins” which we both found hilarious. As the night prepared to close, I had to drop off folks that couldn’t drive back at their houses, telling you and our mutual friend Ebony I had to “figure my life out” for a second and not to go anywhere, attempting to disguise my intent to pursue you. You knew and rolled with it. I came back and we drove Ebony home, me eventually asking if you wanted to come over. You obliged and smiled widely. I wanted to show you my cats, of course!
On December 26th I posted on Facebook about the previous day: “It started as an awful, no good, very bad day and ended on a positive note with a bunch of lovely queers. Ebony, thank you.” The previous day – December 25th – had been horrible. It was the first year I could remember not having spent Christmas Eve welcoming Christmas at midnight, and church trauma was heavy on my mind. I wouldn’t have shown up to Queermas if I hadn’t been cat-sitting and already been out of the house. I forced myself to go to this potluck I didn’t want to attend.
And then my life changed – someone stole my seat after I returned with a plate full of food from the buffet table! I didn’t want to do the wrong thing in this group of folks I didn’t know. So I stood there looking at this hot person who was in my seat wondering what to do next.
You looked up at me and said something like, “Oh, is this your seat?” You invited me to sit next to you, but you stayed in “my” seat. We ended up sitting next to each other, me taking someone else’s seat, perhaps?
I was so excited to sit next to you. I’d been immediately attracted to you with your oversized buttoned shirt and your attractive chiseled face with large eyes leading directly to your soul. I wanted to know you. And I was nervous. It had been so long since I’d dated, and it had been so long since I’ve been immediately attracted to someone with such fervor.
I wanted to breathe you. I wanted to know you. And I was terrified.
I picked up a succulent in its small glass container that was on the table and you said that you had brought it. My heart beat a little faster as we immediately began talking about our love for plants, then cats. We showed each other pictures of our cats and got lost in each others’ company, so much so that by the end of the night we were giddy laughing together – something that felt so refreshing. I was infatuated. You were adorable and hot, and I let my leg touch yours as we laughed and made excuses to casually touch your shoulder.
I wanted this to continue. I wanted to know you. We had so much in common – politics, trauma, and more. And I loved that I could make you laugh so easily. I was giddy. I didn’t remember the last time I laughed so much with another person. You were (are) beautiful.
At the end of the night I lingered, hoping we could continue our conversation, maybe even more than that. I didn’t want to make the first move, and I think we both knew we wanted to spend more time together. We had shared cards – business cards – but I wanted your number, not your email. You asked if I ever went to The Merc (a gay bar) and I knew that we were both on the same page. It was obvious how we were electrically attracted to each other.
What happened next involved meeting my cats, our first kiss as I fed them their dinner (typical queer thing!?), and meeting your cats at your home. The next morning we had known for 12 hours that we wanted to keep going and see where we ended up.
The next day I told a friend, “I met someone last night – it’s eerie, we kinda went through a whole month in one night. We met at the queer potluck I forced myself to go to last night and ended up just in our own world in the middle of it all.” “We were both surprised and we’re both terrified of it all at the same time.”
And now we’re partners. And now we love each other. And now we are surviving a pandemic together, figuring it out as we go.
And we’ll keep saving the world in our own ways while we love our new beautiful stray cat, Madge (who might be pregnant).
Emily Anne Ward is a yoga teacher, grassroots community organizer, and state-party delegate to the Executive Board of the California Democratic Party. She believes in the liberation of queer people, prison abolition, and environmental justice. Emily is a polyamorous lesbian who lives in Roseville with her two cats and plants. In her spare time, she loves to play music and can cook a mean risotto.You can reach her on Twitter at @queershrub or connect on Facebook.
If are able and you’d like to support our future (stay-at-home) date nights during Covid19, here’s a link to give through Ko-fi – even as little as $3. If/When you do so, specify “Harem CharEm” in the donation comment section.