“Come here,” Oliver said, beckoning his husband to the couch.
Johnathan was in the bedroom, folding a shirt.
“Come on,” Oliver said. “What are you doing?”
Johnathan threw the shirt on the bed. He went to the couch and sat next to Oliver. Oliver took his hand.
“Watch this,” he said.
“What is it?” Johnathan asked.
Oliver tapped the play button with his thumb. The video played. He turned the phone sideways for them to watch.
The video panned the apartments in some downtown city at night. Lights inside the apartments flashed. Some had strung Christmas lights around their windows and balconies. There was cheering and clapping and whistles and music. Some held flashlights or phones against the glass, swirling the light.
“See, it’s like a party. They do this every night at 8 o’clock.”
Oliver squeezed his husband’s hand.
“Nice. And where it this?” Jonathan asked.
“Chicago. The Loop.”
They watched a while longer.
“When things get back to normal, hopefully we’ll come out of this better people,” Oliver said. “Things like this give me hope.”
Johnathan turned away, deliberating over his response.
“What?” Oliver asked.
“I wouldn’t count on things changing that much,” Jonathan said. “At least not us.”
“Why not?” his husband asked.
“Two weeks ago, most of those people didn’t know each other by anything other than sight, if that.”
“But they know one another better now.”
“No they don’t,” Jonathan said.
Oliver was afraid the pandemic was really getting to his husband in a bad way. Jonathan feared the same about his husband too.
“People are what they are,” Jonathan said. “But there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that.”
“Nothing wrong? There’s no connection between people anymore. We’re so self-absorbed,” Oliver said. “Like you said, people don’t even know the names of their neighbors.”
“Maybe that’s the way it’s got to be for things to have turned out like this. For us.”
“Got to be? For what?”
“For survival,” Jonathan said.
Oliver put the phone down.
“There’s mere survival and then there’s living,” Oliver said. “There’s mere survival and there’s quality of life.”
“But think about it. If we hadn’t all been running around like hell before this, working our asses off, we wouldn’t have the resources to get through it. Trust me, we’re far better off right now than any third world country’s going to be. Trust me, this thing hits Indian or Brazil, they’re fucked way worse than we are.”
Oliver knew those countries aren’t third world. He knew them as “newly industrialized.” But Oliver didn’t reply to any of it, and Jonathan understood. His husband had always been a romantic.
“I’ve been thinking, we get criticized for being fat and lazy. How we have too many cars and houses that are way bigger than what we need.”
“Me too,” Oliver said. “Maybe when this is over, we’ll be different. Less greedy. Less materialistic. Maybe we’ll realize we need less junk. Junk’s not important. It’s us that are important.”
Jonathan held tight to his husband.
“Don’t count on it. And, to be honest, I’m not that sure we should want that.”
Oliver turned to his husband, afraid he was falling into another deep depression. The crisis was affecting people in ways both predictable and unpredictable.
“Why shouldn’t we want it?”
“Because, without it, we wouldn’t have the resources to get through something like this. Big, fat homes and cars are luxuries. But so is medicine at a time like this. So are hospitals. We still have food in the middle of a worldwide crisis. We even have the extra resources to offer one another aid. The way I’m seeing it, it’s sort of the trade off for being so self-centered and materialistic.”
“Wow,” Oliver said. “I never thought the virus would turn you Republican. I assumed it might kill us, but not this. And, to be honest, I’m not sure which is worse.”
“It’s not just dumb patriotism,” Jonathan pleaded. “It’s the necessary trade off of having a good life when things are normal and having a better life when things aren’t. It’s about having a better chance of making it through something like this. All things good come with a price.”
Oliver tired pulling away but Jonathan held him tight.
“I get we’re supposed to shit on everything bougie. But bougie comes with lots of benefits too.”
Johnathan squeezed his husband’s hand again.
“Maybe we can have both,” Oliver said. “Maybe we can come out of this as better people too. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.”
Johanthan put his head on Oliver shoulder.
“Maybe,” he said. “We can always hope.”
They held each other a while. Then Oliver said, “You know, if I was there in Chicago, I’d make a big sign that would say ‘Hi, I’m Oliver’ and stand in the widow with it. It wouldn’t be much, but it would be a start.”
“Yeah,” Jonathan said. “That probably would be.”