before COVID

We met in November at a bar that was dark and crowded. We sat close to each other on stools and drank spicy margaritas, ate goat-cheese flatbread and chatted about things that seemed important at the time, like the Patriots and our favorite bread. His: Rye. Mine: Thick seeded loaves. He touched my hair and said he thought my eye looked sad. I didn’t tell him that I had recently ended an engagement. That I still needed time to tend to my heart and to heal and to process the break-up. He didn’t tell me that he has a son in second grade who he lives with every two weeks. He didn’t tell me that he spends most of his evenings working on communication with his son’s mother. He didn’t tell me that he hopes they can find a friendship. I didn’t tell him that I am scared to date. That I worry I have forgotten how to meet my own needs first. 

He didn’t tell me that he started to get scared to go to work in the Emergency Department long before COVID-19. He didn’t tell me that a homeless man had tried to stab him with a knife as he was taking his blood pressure on Halloween. He had managed to duck and yell for security in time. He also didn’t tell me about the time an explosive device was found in the waiting area as he was looking at the x-ray of a toddler who had swallowed a green marble.

I didn’t tell him that my best friend is a new mom and that it’s been hard to watch her get enveloped by her baby. I didn’t tell him that I still have the registration materials from the fertility clinic all filled out and saved on my laptop, that I am often thinking about getting egg retrieval and reading blogs about how to stick my body with hormones. I didn’t tell him that most of the time I am unhappy at work and that I am tired of having to come up with new creative marketing ideas. That I don’t even enjoy marketing anymore. That maybe I never did.

He didn’t tell me that he would be scared for mother because she is in her 80s and lives alone. I didn’t tell him that my paycheck would get cut in half because of the virus and that I would stop going to yoga and therapy because they wouldn’t be the same over Zoom. He didn’t tell me that he would look on ebay for masks because the nurse manager would only give out 2 each per nurse. He didn’t tell me that his hands would start to bleed from washing them so much.

I didn’t tell him that I would increase my anti-anxiety medication and that I would gain 10 lbs and would act like I didn’t care, when actually I felt incredibly disappointed and discouraged and also foolish for caring, especially when white privilege changed the lens in which we would view everything.

He didn’t tell me that he would have his temperature taken every day at work and that he would watch a man alone die from the virus.

I didn’t tell him that I would be scared to go to Trader Joe’s and that even though the cases seemed low in Maine, that I would never feel so anxious in my life and that I was pretty sure I wouldn’t return to my office in 2020 and that it would be the longest time I would go without seeing my parents.

We had no idea all that we needed to say or all that would enfold and all that we would never say.

Instead, on that night cold November before COVID-19, he kissed me outside the bar. He tasted like hoppy beer and I told him that I admired nurses. He smiled and said that on some days it’s the best job in the world. I told him I had fun, but was probably not looking for anything serious. He looked a little disappointed, but smiled again and said that he hoped he would see me when the time is right.