My Covid Lady Friend

What can you say about a pandemic-long relationship that ended after two jabs?

Veronica and I met cute, over the last rutabaga at the Santa Monica Farmers Market. It was March, 2020, just before there were no more Farmers Markets. Luckily, in our sixties, we discovered the greatest flirting machine ever invented. We texted birds, elephants (Veronica liked elephants), puns, emojis of fire signaling desire. In 1918 times, letters carried a scent, spring petal, or autumn leaf—add sealing wax and you’re looking at a lot of extra postage… Who’s got time to long that long today? Not sexagenarians acting out some kind of YR romance. Text, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll, baby!

Then, the date-at-a-distance. Sourdough and red wine, sitting six squares apart on a neutral sidewalk. Then, that awkward face-covered first nuzzle kiss:

“Did you feel anything?”

“Um…did you?”

“Totally!”

Two grown-ups comfortable in their own skins may create any relationship they want. A pod in Veronica’s two-bedroom apartment? Yes please. No concerts, theaters, fine dining? What a cheap date. Cozy closeness is free.

Compatibility? Two chocoholics indulging in Trader Joe’s compendium of delights (if you haven’t been doing major comfort food, I don’t know you).

Shared hobbies? Naps. For additional mental health I spent more time with Trudy—the cat—than with any pet in my entire life, ever.

Togetherness can keep you sane. I made a mess of grilled cheese; Veronica showed me how to do an app. She initiated the recommended daily exercise; I held her hand crossing streets every half-a-block to avoid humans on our walk into Hotchkiss Park. Young people in groups (always), enjoying babies and White Claw. Dogs herding one another. We were there to warm our bones in the sun. Wondering, what right karma did we do in failed relationships to make us worthy of this now?

In appreciation, we’d take the time to recite Kurt Vonnegut’s mantra: “If this isn’t nice, what is?” Nice dinners, finishing sandwiches from Bay Cities too big at lunch. Pleasant evenings, reading poetry aloud as we imagined lovers loving to do all across the County of Angels. Ah, romance…I’m kidding.

Veronica kept her clicker out of reach because I flipped out the first time she paused a movie. Patience… Soon she taught me to freeze the screen until the next morning. (Forgive me, Aero members!)

There are always bumps. Why be bummed if you’re not each other’s one-and-only forever always. There’s a lot to being pretty good “podners.” In The Moviegoer, novelist Walker Percy wrote: “It is not a bad thing to settle for the Little Way, not the big search for the big happiness but the sad little happiness of drinks and kisses, a good little car and a warm deep thigh.” Kindness is key. Remembering the same songs and singing them: also good. I watched her take her meds every morning; she watched me strap on the CPAP every night. Ah, romance…

As Fresno’s poet laureate William Saroyan put it: “In the time of your life, live.” If you’re in your sixties, you were around in the 60s living through outrageous history. How accustomed we’ve become to the strangeness.

Veronica and I tried to become elders, not olders—know what I mean? Still, it’s a mystery. After double vaccinations, Veronica says she’s ready to see what’s under other people’s masks. Zero drama. YOLO, as the energy drinks say. Here’s a memory I’ll cherish: taking my best lady friend to a drive-in picture show—that pop-up in Marina del Rey— and making out like teenagers.

Hank Rosenfeld, Santa Monica