Columns From Quarantine: The difficulties of long distance when an end to stay-at-home orders is uncertain

By Samantha Dorfan

May 13, 2020 at 1:58 p.m.

This post was updated June 21, 2023, at 2:31 p.m.

The coronavirus pandemic has drastically upended life in the most unforeseeable ways. At UCLA, our community is remarkably united by similar feelings of loss, confusion and concern, but also by light, hope and the perspective that the pandemic has brought to the forefront. In “Columns From Quarantine,” Daily Bruin staffers and community submissions highlight the personal stories that mark this unprecedented moment. If you have a quarantine story to tell, you can submit it here or email [email protected].

Almost every day since quarantine began, I’ve seen some meme or article conflating global pandemic with marital friction.

You see, I’m not one to judge as I’ve never been married, nor have I ever lived with another man other than my imaginary friend growing up – who spent most of his time under the table – and my father, who, thankfully, did not.

But I guess I’m just confused. Because, from where I’m sitting, 106 miles away from my boyfriend of over a year, it seems unfathomable to me that more time spent in the company of one’s beloved equates to less satisfaction with them.

It isn’t that long distance is all bad – my boyfriend and I have basically become experts at it. But if by some crazy turn of scientific events, interaction became safe only under tables like my childhood imaginary friend, I’d definitely choose that option over no interaction at all. Taking it even further, if the only safe way to interact was to meet under tables buried in snow in the middle of the Arctic, I’d be okay with it, because I’d still get to see him.

Like I said, long distance isn’t bad at all.

If only a table were the only obstacle in the way of my relationship – there’s the miles of distance, the germs and vulnerable immune systems, and the Los Angeles governmental stay-at-home order, which may be in effect until July, and who really knows how much longer.

The saying that “Home is where the heart is” doesn’t seem to ring true for me because I’m at home physically, but I’m not here mentally. And the mental connection to where I really am is being thinly held together by an overwhelmed WiFi router and drained, weary eyes from too much screen time.

For the past month, my relationship with my boyfriend has been grounded in memories of togetherness, snail mail, an abundance of text messages and the expectancy of an unconfined future. The issue at hand is that the end is uncertain for everyone, and attempts at predicting an ending only results in bouts of frustration.

It isn’t the first time our relationship has gone remote. In the past, there have been thousands of miles between us while one of us has traveled and the other has waited. But the thing that made those times manageable isn’t in this current equation: an end date.

The last time we went almost two months apart, I counted down the days – the hours even. Ironically, the spread of the coronavirus was actually what ended that period of long distance prematurely. I was so happy, admittedly for purely selfish reasons. But five days later, I terminated my housing contract and moved back home, once again finding myself too far from his company.

That’s when it became clear this pandemic lets nothing go unnoticed.

Now I try not to think about time.

Attempts at quantifying time apart only seem to devalue our time together. Has it been two days or two months? It’s better that I don’t know. So I tell myself it must have been yesterday when we went on that hike in Malibu. And it was just a week ago when we saw that movie about the servants at that weird dinner party that put us to sleep. And tomorrow we’re going to try that new Thai restaurant that opened.

What I don’t know won’t hurt me.

Call me naive or warped, but this is the way I prevent myself from getting swept up by the ravages of time, even if the picture of what we would have eaten from that restaurant we “haven’t been to yet” is already in my camera roll. It’s all relative, you know. I just won’t look at it until our dinner has passed.

The thing is, it’s a lot easier to account for the time that has already passed than for the time that has yet to come. I know I can always watch the progression of his growing beard through FaceTime and vicariously eat the things he’d normally cook for me, but other than that, it’s up to my imagination to fill the rest of the void.

Truthfully, it’s pretty tiring pretending my food tastes as good as it does when I eat it with him or that my stomach hurts from laughing and not from missing him. But I’ll continue to do it to remind myself to be thankful for how good things are when we’re together.

I’m lucky to have that to hold onto in the meantime. That, and the most mundane of details that nobody but two people in love would find interesting. He put olives in his guacamole yesterday. I didn’t wear socks today for the first time in a week. Riveting.

So don’t ask me when I’ll see him next or how things are going in my relationship. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused pain and trouble for the entire world – but it ultimately has no say in the affairs of my heart.

Samantha Dorfan is a second-year biology student from San Diego and is a Blogging contributor for the Daily Bruin.

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