My partner and I were only together for a year before the pandemic started. The week after we celebrated our one-year anniversary, the first lockdown was announced. For the next year, whenever we were in lockdown, we would be six feet apart. I look back at that first year and wish I had been more present in the little moments— I didn’t think they’d be taken away so quickly.
During lockdown, Tim Hortons parking lots were our saviour. We would sit in our separate cars and talk through the windows. I’m not saying it was easy. In fact, it was downright difficult, especially with the winters here. It’s cold; it’s irritating. We had our windows down to talk, heaters blasting. I can still remember how cold my toes felt. Our faces would hurt from the wind. Still, driving home after frostbitten "dates”—that’s what I called our parking lot meet-ups—always felt bittersweet. Even though my toes were cold, and my face hurt, I still wanted more of time to be us.
Sitting in parking lots, 6-feet apart for weeks at a time, you really get to know a person. You can see your differences. Once, I remember my grandmother telling me, “You’re never going to like anybody 100%. If there’s only 10% you don’t like about a person, it’s perfectly ok. Because that 10% will be there for every single person you meet in your life.”
There were arguments. It’s hard not to argue when you feel like your toes are so cold they might fall off. I couldn’t see an end to it all. Our friendship had grown, but I hadn’t realized how important it was to be close to someone—to have them a handhold-distance away. Still, I tried to keep the spark alive.
On Valentine’s Day 2021 we met in a parking lot, in our own cars, again. I wore a dress and several pairs of socks. He wore a dress shirt and tie. We got food from a sandwich place and ate in our own cars. It felt romantic.
Sometimes it was the smallest things that were romantic: like, him already having my coffee when I got there. Looking back on it: to have somebody show up for you, when it’s freezing cold, when reconciliation over stupid arguments feels impossible because you’re 6-feet apart, when you’re in a parking lot. It’s a magical feeling. It feels like something real, something special. I don’t think it’s an aspect of a relationship I would have experienced elsewhere or at any other time.
The first time that we got back together, we went for a walk. It was spring. There was a cherry blossom tree, and I remember it felt hopeful. Being close to somebody after so long is a feeling you can’t put into words. In case you’re wondering: the spark is still alive, and it still feels magical.
(Interviewed and written by Jennifer Chambers; image created by Jaime Velazquez Loza)