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In this year of total global catastrophic destruction and ruin, a few things took their opportunity to shine. We are all aware that QR codes and Zoom had their moment in the sun (or more accurately, in the indoors). But in my world, the biggest comeback was from one thing only: the emotion of yearning.
Apologies to my editor but these italics are necessary, as you can only get the full effect of thinking about yearning by reading it as yearning. It’s important to understand here that I’m not talking about your common, everyday sort of yearning. I mean the type of yearning that has been passed down from generation to generation, the yearning that runs through your blood, weaving itself around your vital organs: Gay Yearning.
Gay Yearning (which obviously includes all LGBTQ yearning) isn’t a new phenomenon caused by the pandemic. It is lived in, it is historic. For example, one of the last movies I saw in theatres was Portrait of a Lady on Fire. Released in 2020, set in the 18th century, I would describe it as 85% gay yearning, 15% painting.
It makes sense that yearning is the gay emotion. For most of history, queer people have been forced to internalise their emotions. We have been forced to hide, to stay safe by not acting on our feelings. We have wanted from afar. We have desired in secret. Yearning has often been the one and only option. During the pandemic when we couldn’t see people, let alone touch them, Gay Yearning came storming back into our lives bigger than ever. Personally, I felt transported back to being a closeted yearning teenager, only existing as queer on the internet.
This was compounded when I accidentally fell in love with someone who lives in New Zealand. This time the yearning I was about to endure was self-inflicted.
The first “date” we had was conducted via Zoom, and went for eight hours. We have been in touch pretty much constantly since, using video calls, phone calls, voice memos, emails, gifts in the mail. For my birthday she hand-drew me a map of her home, so it’s as if I were there with her. For the majority of this, it was also completely uncertain about when, and if, we would ever get to be together in real life. To touch. There was no sign of the borders opening, the trans-Tasman bubble seemed impossible, and I was falling more in love by the day (gay).
All of these factors combined are perfect conditions for Gay Yearning to grow, and it was in full effect. Then, we got the announcement that the one-way border would be opening. I couldn’t go there, but people from New Zealand were going to be allowed in. She would have to quarantine on her way home, but we decided we had to take the chance, in case all that yearning became fatal. We also knew how lucky we were to even have the chance to see each other, with so many people all over the world separated in awful circumstances. So in October, we booked her flights to come here for Christmas. We had an end date, and I would finally be able to turn off the sad yearning Phoebe Bridgers album I had been listening to all year.
The yearning was now more pleasant, mixed with joy and excitement as we knew it would be ending. Her flights back and forth were cancelled five or six times, but we would panic together briefly, and then rebook another (more expensive) flight. It was tense, especially because New Zealand’s managed isolation system means she is required to fly out on a certain date, but it was all seemingly safe. Then, last week, there was another outbreak of the virus in Sydney. Our two months of feeling hopeful were vanquished as yearning reared its head yet again, this time mixed with fear. As we know living in this pandemic, things can change so rapidly. One moment it feels as though everything is OK, the next moment everyone’s Christmas is ruined.
We didn’t know what it would mean for her trip, and the idea of losing our chance to be together after all that time filled us with dread. In the course of two days, her flights were changed twice. Every time I received a message or call from her in the past year, I was hit with a spike of excitement. This week, I have been hit with a spike of anxiety. Just before I started writing this, her flight bringing her to me was cancelled. She will hopefully be transferred to a different flight, but yet again we have been thrust back into the position of having no control, and not knowing what is going to happen.
It might seem romantic, in theory. I’ve been kept from the woman I love, and she is meant to arrive on Christmas Day, but we have to go through some drama along the way. It sounds like something you might watch on Netflix. Romantic comedies give you the impression that this sort of tension is romantic, and exciting. But in my experience, it’s very much not. I don’t want the stress. I don’t want the doubt. I don’t want Love Actually the movie, I just want love, actually. We’ll know within the next couple of days if it works out for us this time, but in the meantime I’ll be here, listening to Phoebe Bridgers and yearning again, in my own gay way.
• Rebecca Shaw is a writer based in Sydney
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Waiting to hear if my girlfriend can arrive from New Zealand, I’m back to being a yearning teenager | Coronavirus