When my partner and I signed our first lease together just weeks ago, we had no idea we’d be moving in the midst of a global pandemic.

* * *

On a Sunday night when Jay Inslee closes all restaurants and bars and restricts them to take-out or delivery only, we’re sitting on the floor of our new living room — our couch hasn’t arrived yet — deciding on what to do next. The most practical thing seems to be going grocery shopping, since we hadn’t bought into the panic prior. It’s already 8 pm when we learn of this, and my partner is only 10 hours away from a 15-hour workday.

click to enlarge Cohabitating during COVID-19
Kailee Haong is a local writer.

Up and down grocery aisles, we strategize about what items will fit in our shared freezer, what we’ll both eat, what makes the most sense to buy. We drop $200 on what seems to be mostly sensible items, but also fun splurges, like alcohol and ice cream. If we’re going to be stuck inside, we might as well have a little bit of fun.

When we get home and unload everything, we sit back down on the living room floor. It feels strange, all of this. We’re both a bit panicked but probably won’t admit it to each other. Sitting in an empty living room feels even more stressful when furnishing an entire apartment is not in your best financial interest at this time. Is a dining room table or dinner to put on the table more important? I think that goes without saying. With jobs dropping employees left and right and rules forcing people to stay inside looming, I think it’s fair to be a little bit scared.

* * *

It’s been nearly a week now. We’ve adjusted to this weird new way of living, in our new space that’s still pretty unfurnished (and at this point, when will we be able to furnish it completely?). But we make it work. We always do.

This morning I wake up and she’s still asleep. I open all the blinds, light a candle. It’s a beautiful day already. I cook chocolate chip pancakes and use up the last of the chocolate chips. I’ll have to add that to my next grocery list. Hopefully, the hoarders haven’t squandered all of them before I have the chance to go out and get some more. We eat pancakes together and swap headlines, news, new cases of the disease, and then we stop. We’ve been hearing this nonstop all week. Instead, we put music on. Make tea. Rearrange the entire kitchen, just because. I set up a gardening area on our new deck. We chase our cat from room to room. And we laugh. Something that feels so wrong right now, but so necessary. We’ve got to get through this, somehow.

Tonight we’ll play Sorry. I have the current winning streak, but she might tell you otherwise. We’ll probably finish the pint of ice cream and wish we had bought more, wish we had chosen that to stockpile, since it seemed to be one of the only things everyone else in the grocery frenzy had overlooked. Maybe we’ll braid each others’ hair and watch a movie or play another round of Sorry and laugh until it’s time to go to sleep just to wake up and do it all over again. Some routines don’t feel monotonous, though, when you’ve picked the right person to do them with.

* * *

While we’re both navigating how to live with a partner for the first time, we’re also navigating how to live in a state of constantly changing crisis. But we’ve been through a lot together and we know that we work well. And it seems she’s stuck with me for now. I mean, we signed a lease after all. ♦

Kailee Haong is a queer woman of color who primarily writes fiction. She holds an M.F.A. in creative writing from Eastern Washington University. Her work has been published in Split Lip, The Brown Orient, Spokane Writes, Lilac City Fairy Tales and others. She writes and resides in the Inland Northwest.

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