The text came just before 1 p.m.
“Hey remind me, you have a meeting tonight, right?”
I had been dating Ryan* since the beginning of February. We met on Hinge — one of the plethora of dating apps.
But this one advertises itself as the app for people who want to get off apps, and who doesn’t want that? I deleted my app after our fourth date at a ramen restaurant, and we had a conversation about what we were looking for.
Ryan knew me well enough to know that I frequently have to work evenings as a reporter, but this night I was free. He texted me back, asking to “hang out” on FaceTime this evening.
Dating in the COVID-19 pandemic, this wasn’t the first time we FaceTimed together. So, I showered, sat in the corner of my love seat near a flattering light, and waited for him to call.
We made small talk about our days. Then Ryan fell quiet.
“So, I’ve been feeling in a fog lately,” he started.
He talked about his commitment issues, which came up after we started being intimate and I asked him whether this, meaning us, was going anywhere. I deserved to be with someone better, he told me.
“Wait, I’m confused,” I said. “Are you asking to just keep this casual or stop seeing each other?”
“I think we should stop seeing each other,” Ryan said.
At age 27, Ryan was the first guy I’ve been in a relationship with. Which is what I consider three-and-a-half months of seeing someone at least once a week and texting every day to be.
I’ve been on dates before — awkward dates with guys who attempt to seductively eat mozzarella sticks, annoying dates with guys who insult my music taste, dates with guys who ghost you the next day, and great dates with guys like Ryan.
Why I’ve never been in a relationship has been the topic of many drunken nights with friends. The answer lies somewhere between insecurity and absurdly high standards and a conversation for me and my therapist.
Our first date was at a restaurant, making awkward small talk about what we thought about the most recent season of Game of Thrones over too-expensive glasses of wine. But I thought he was handsome and smart and gave him my phone number.
The more we went out, the more I liked him.
Ryan was on vacation in Denmark when President Donald Trump suspended travel to Europe due to the coronavirus.
He quarantined for about two weeks when he was forced to cut his trip short and come home, thinking he got the virus, until his test came back negative.
I knew we were not supposed to see each other, living in different apartments. But I figured that since we were both working from home, it would be safe to still see each other.
Dates turned into ordering takeout and watching the Tiger King on Netflix. To mix it up, we went on walks with his dog.
For me, it was nice to just see someone besides my cat. Most of my friends and family still live in the Midwest, and our contact is limited to phone calls and Zoom birthday parties. It was nice to spend time with another human being.
For Ryan, it felt like we were stuck in a rut. That we lost the spark.
About a week before he broke up with me on FaceTime, Ryan texted me, asking for ideas of other things we could do besides dinner and Netflix binges.
The problem is, you can’t just try a different restaurant or go to a museum to shake things up when you’re in quarantine.
I did some Googling — picnics, mini-golf, looking at the stars, two-person board games.
We settled on having a picnic in a nearby park only for Ryan to text me the day before to say it was supposed to be cold and we should have it inside. Sure, I responded.
I made some bruschetta and rolled some strawberries in chocolate (which led to me fighting a losing battle with the strawberries to get them unfrozen from the plate) and headed over.
To me, it was a normal date. I didn’t know that this was the be-all, end-all to get our spark back because I felt our spark had just become an ember of simply enjoying spending time with each other.
It wasn’t until I was yelling at him over FaceTime that I realized that he just wasn’t into me anymore. I wanted to fight for whatever it was that we had, but he had already given up.
“I’d rather do it now than in two months when you’re in love with me, and I don’t feel the same,” he said.
I turned off my camera so that he couldn’t see me crying.
Maybe the pandemic knee-capped whatever it was we had, forcing us into something too soon.
Maybe it shined a light onto fundamental differences between us.
But I knew one thing, as I deleted his number from my phone, the pandemic showed me the whirlwind of love and heartbreak.