By Walden Samkite
PROMPT — During COVID-19 ...
One wouldn’t expect to fall in love during a pandemic and worldwide shut down, but I did.
I was told by my astrologer in October of 2019 that I would meet someone soon, and that psychically the relationship would be very involved by June of 2020.
I did not like my home town and never expected to meet someone there. I assumed my foreign travels might bring a lover into my life. In December of 2019, I ventured to Central America for a retreat. While I did not fully believe my astrologer was right, I was open and sort of looking.
In my final days, I met a man I was curious about. We ended up serendipitously crossing paths every few hours during my last few days. On the final day, I gave him a ride to the airport where we expressed our mutual attraction to each other. However, we couldn’t consummate our feelings for another two months when he would be coming to my town from Canada. While I was glad I expressed my feelings, I wanted more in that moment. Now I had to wait two months to see what was in store, if anything.
To pass the time over the next two months, I traveled every free weekend I had to the Bahamas, India, and took other smaller local trips.
When he finally came, our initial fun quickly turned sour when his brilliant ego was wounded by a failure of intimacy. Within hours, he became the most abusive a-hole I had interacted with since my childhood. I drowned myself in whiskey to numb myself from his cold presence until he finally left.
While I thought I was “cured” of falling for abusive, narcissistic men, he highlighted for me that I am still drawn to the wrong men.
After he left, I was devastated. A good friend said, “This asshole should not have this effect on you. There is something wrong that you need to figure out! Why is this hitting you so hard?”
“No,” I thought. “It is not abnormal, because I expected so much more. Even though we just had a few days together, I had spent two months thinking and dreaming about this a-hole, praying to every Indian god for this to work out. This experience rocked my faith in God and the electricity between two meeting souls, which I always assumed to be love.”
To get over this experience, I was about to date online when the pandemic hit. I was relegated to my home with my kids and no one else. All potential dates were on hold. I decided my astrologer was sorely wrong. There was no way I would meet someone now, especially not before June.
I was struggling financially and saddened by the risk to health care professionals who were fighting COVID-19. I, too am a physician but was afraid to put myself on the front lines for fear of not surviving. I listed my basement apartment for rent and offered it to COVID-19 workers, as my previous tenant fled home to Kansas when his work shut down. Surprisingly, a request popped up for my apartment in the midst of the pandemic, but it was not a COVID worker. With my minimal income, I needed help with my mortgage and accepted the guest.
The next day he arrived with two children who were just with him for the evening. I never had much interest in the lives of my tenants but this time, whether due to isolation or boredom or just frank interest, I was immensely curious. I heard him talking on the phone and sometimes noticed that he did not come back. I thought, “How lucky to have someone to talk to and interact with sexually or however. I wish I had that now. Oh well.”
Days passed until I received a notice about a legal glitch in his rental. It seemed I shouldn’t have allowed this guest yet I was being informed days after he moved in. It seemed riskier at this point to make him leave. I texted him about the notice. He said he received the same thing, but noted that his business might be exempt because they were doing COVID-19 research. I let it slide, but as the days passed, I started to worry again. I was afraid to lose a tenant as I needed the money, but I decided to talk to him about it. We met the following day to discuss the situation. He admitted that he was going through a divorce and was unprepared to make any long term housing commitments yet. Under these circumstances, he technically qualified as homeless. That was an exemption. I decided it was easier to have him stay, and there was enough reason to defend this situation. However, a conversation between us had begun and this one led to a long walk and dinner together.
Each night after that, I wondered what he was up to. I was not sure if I was interested in him, but I found myself thinking about him every evening. I had told him he could use my kitchen when he wanted to cook. Occasionally he took me up on the offer. I enjoyed seeing him there.
One night, he came up to roast a pepper. We chatted about Santa Fe. He thought I would love it there from what he knew about me. I said, “I think not. Have you ever seen Grace and Frankie?” I told him the premise of the show and how Frankie moved to New Mexico. “She couldn’t stand it and returned to San Diego reporting that everyone was like her.”
“I can’t stand people who are like me,” I declared.
His smile was broad as I said this and he replied, “Yeah, maybe you would not like it there.”
I did not hear from him for a couple of nights after that, and I yearned to talk to him. I had not told anyone about him, however, I started leaking a possible addendum to my book “Love and Other Tragedies” to include a final chapter now called “Love amidst a Tragedy.” I was afraid because I never loved someone who was actually a good person. He was someone I could commit to long term and actually fall in love with without having to try to win his love or show him that I was worth something. He was not what I typically was drawn to yet I found myself thinking about him nightly. I noticed the crack of light under the door leading to the basement when he was home. After two nights of no contact, I finally texted, “Want to do something this weekend either Saturday afternoon or Sunday? It is supposed to be beautiful.”
“Sure, I would love that,” he replied and suggested a couple of bike rides. While I was open to anything, I admitted that I kind of hated riding but would try it. After multiple texts back and forth he said, “I can come up and just talk to you rather than this text exchange.”
He came up to my living room where I was sitting in front of the fire and drinking wine. I got him a glass and we chatted for two hours on the living room floor about the weekend and other life experiences.
I was growing attracted to him but was afraid to pursue anything. He was my tenant and I needed the money. If things did not work out, it would be incredibly awkward. If we decided to fool around, I needed to clarify that I was not willing to commit yet. I needed to sleep with five men before I committed to anything. I convinced myself that I only wanted something sexual with him to satisfy a need. If he was willing to roll with it, then maybe we could fool around with no ties binding us.
It was almost midnight and I needed to go to bed. I said this and he agreed. He stood up and replied, “Ya know, Walden is one of my favorite names. I wanted to call my daughter that but somehow it was shot down.”
“Why?” I asked.
“I can’t really remember.” Maybe he did not want to tell me. I did not push it.
The less he contacted me, the more I wanted him. He noticed things about me, things we had in common that I noticed too but was afraid to mention. It frightened me when he mentioned them. I was not used to someone actually paying attention to me. I did not want to be bound to anyone and definitely not someone who was right and good for me. Not now. Not yet.
Here I was trapped in my house during the COVID-19 lock-down. I had been desperate for human interaction, yet under these strangest of circumstances, the universe had tricked me and I was beginning to fall in love.
Walden Samkite is a physician interested in many alternative modalities.