Love is Blind: A Series on Long-Distance Relationships during COVID-19

Ali, a young woman with short brown and wavy hair smiling with boyfriend Juan, turned slightly towards her, also smiling. They are sitting on a bench and each has an arm around one another.Some of you might remember a 3-part series I wrote in January about flying to Houston to visit a friend. That friend is now my boyfriend.

Juan and I go way back. We met in September 2005. I was in sixth grade, and he was 19 and a fifth-year senior (that’s what they called it in the vision department at school). Fifth year seniors graduated like everybody else in their school but then stayed an extra year to focus on vocational goals. One of Juan’s goals at the time was teaching Spanish to blind and visually impaired students. I happened to be taking a mainstream Spanish class and could use all the help I could get, so he was assigned to tutor me. And when our middle and high schools realized they didn’t have enough people to field individual Goalball teams, they combined them and we did goalball together.

We didn’t keep in regular contact much after that, especially after I went to the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired, a residential school hours away from our homes in the Chicago suburbs. Juan and I texted on each other’s birthdays and would call every few months just to catch up. Then his father took a job in Houston, his family moved to Texas, and Juan joined them there in 2016.

Fast forward to 2019. Juan was back to visit family and friends, and I was invited to join some of them on a beautiful September day in Chicago. I found myself observing the way he interacted with me, with the people around us, with Uber drivers, and customer service. I observed his confidence, his outgoing personality, the way he spoke of his passions. The way he talked about what it was like to move from Illinois to Texas, the way he tackled all the research to find resources there…all of it. And I thought, “I think I kind of like him. This is someone I could see myself with.”

But I wasn’t sure.

A week later, I drummed up the courage to text him. “I want to make sure I actually like you,” I wrote. “That I’m not just single and like the idea of a person.” I told him I was still figuring out my feelings. When he wrote me back, he said he was doing that very same thing. He added that during the day in Chicago we’d both been observing each other without the other knowing it. Because he was just about to board his flight, the conversation stalled after that. A few days later, he called me to revisit the conversation, and that’s when he told me that his next visit would be in November for my birthday and asked if he could take me on a date.

Great minds think alike, I suppose.

That phone call about taking me on a date came just 11 days after our time together with other friends in Chicago. I was excited, but skeptical. I’d never known anyone to plan so far in advance. I waited for a cancelation that didn’t come.

We went on our first date on November 17, 2019. Then, since he had flown to Chicago to celebrate my birthday, I flew to Houston in January 2020 to visit and celebrate his — you already know about that from a blog post I wrote this past February, 2020. Sometimes I think I like someone and then I spend a lot of time with them and…realize I don’t actually like them.

That didn’t happen this time.

Stay tuned for part two of Ali’s four-part series on how long-distance relationships can work – and thrive — during a pandemic.


 

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