I am living in Quarantine with my ex-husband, Alex, our friend Matías, and on weekends with Dylan, Alex’s boyfriend, and Layne, my boyfriend. In the back house is our friend Robert.
There are a lot of us here. And for the most part we are making it work. But under the best of circumstances living with people can be hard, no matter how much you love them.
These guys are my family. And I feel lucky to be here in lockdown with them.
But recently we had our first “house fight”. It was over something stupid. I came home from a bike ride and the air-conditioner was on in the living room. Which made sense, it was over 90 degrees that day.
I had been letting resentments build. Creating stories in my head of injustices like not doing dishes in a timely manner, not cleaning out the kitty litter, leaving an opened letter on the table, all the stupid little things that cause minor conflicts between any roommates, but seem somehow magnified under a pandemic lockdown.
I came into the house saying, “We have to be careful about the AC. The bills are getting higher and higher because we are all home.” And while, yes, this is true: it was how I said it. Accusatory. Full of all the built up resentment I had over wayward envelopes and chaotic glasses left unwashed.
I was full of feeling locked in. With the TV on all the time. With someone always home. I work from home. I’m still working from home. I’m used to having space when everyone else leaves. Now no one is leaving. This isn’t their fault or mine. They want to leave just as bad as I want space. They probably want space from me as well. This is just how life is now, and will be for the unforeseeable future.
So I blew up. And they blew up back. And then it was over. And we were able to talk about it.
We have been good about boundaries. Alex and Matías have been incredibly kind: in the mornings they let me sit in the living room and work for a few hours while they mostly stay in their rooms or out in the front yard. We have been good about giving each other as much space as possible. We have each had moments of annoyance, snapping for no reason, and for the most part we all just let it go.
One of the things I keep coming back to during this weird fucking time in our lives: who am I as a man? Who do I want to be?
I am not always the easiest man. And I am definitely not the easiest man to live with or be in a relationship with, but anyone who knows me knows that my “Family” is important to me. And lockdown has been all about family. My chosen family. The people I consider home.
We are going to drive each other crazy right now. Annoy each other. We are going to consider breaking up and running away. We are going to think about leaving them all behind when it’s all over. How could we not think these things? I have been on the brink of blowing everything up a few times. And then I remember: I am so fucking lucky to have these people in my life. And not just the ones I am living with: but the friends who I am zooming with, house partying with, facetiming with. All the people who check in on me daily, and the ones I check in on.
And I am learning: it all comes back to community. To Family. And I can take this to an even broader sense: when grubhub suggests I tip $4 I can choose to tip $5. Or to bring some cash for the person working the check out at the grocery store. To say hi to people as I bike past them. To wave at people from my porch. To be kinder. To not honk at the person in their car when they do something I don’t like.
To just be easier. Kinder. Slower to respond. To try to hear what is happening around me, what people are saying.
This will be over one day. None of us know exactly how that is going look, but I’m pretty sure it won’t look like before. Those days are gone and what is ahead of us is uncertain. And that can be scary. Even those of us who don’t mind change will find this uncertainty scary. And we are going to suffer loss for our lives, for who we once were, for the freedoms we don’t have right now. And we are going to have anxiety for the future. Because the future right now seems scary.
But I also have a lot of hope. Maybe hope is just a blind spot in my personality. I don’t know if the world will work out. I don’t know if we will correct the huge mistake we made as a country in November. I don’t know if the virus will come spiraling back, more vicious than before, I don’t know if the future is dystopic or utopic. I have no control over those things beyond what I do. How I act.
And so I am here trying my best to be the man I want to be. To be kind. That’s all. And when I’m not to say sorry.
Here is a funny stupid story. A few days ago I was calling the pharmacy for some prescriptions and I was annoyed that day so I took that out on the woman on the phone helping me. I wasn’t mean, but I was rude, gruff, obnoxious. When I hung up Matías and Alex called me out on my behavior.
So I called the woman at the pharmacy back and I said, “Hey, this is Jeff Leavell. We just spoke and I was a total jerk to you and you didn’t deserve that. I’m so grateful you are working right now and taking care of us. I’m really sorry. Thank you so much.”
When I went into the pharmacy later she and I had a fun moment laughing about what had happened.
I want to live in a world where we are all trying to be our better selves. The only way I get to have that world is to focus on myself. How I am behaving. And I fuck it up all the time. Like royally fuck it the fuck up. But I’m working hard to own that too. And to forgive myself and to just say sorry.
I am ready for this to be over. I am ready to get on a plane, to go outside without a mask on. Some mornings I cry for no reason, some nights I want to scream and yell. I want to work the door at the Eagle and to go to the beach and to hug people and flirt with hot guys I don’t know. I want to get brunch with friends.
And I am afraid. Like deep in my bones afraid. And I am happy. And I am full of hope. And I worry this is the end of the world. And I am full of love. I am all these things at once.
Anyway, this isn’t my most poetic piece ever but I wanted to get it out. Just to write something. I hope you guys are ok. I’d love to hear from you.