We’re packing- or, they’re packing- “the apartment” while I write this, one of my lovers (and their other lover too). The lover who in this and other moments has been my rock, the one whose terrified Catholic conservative parents I met a week ago- this beau had been in surgery, and I sat coughing a smoker’s cough in a hospital waiting room with a mayor and his wife for seven hours, while members of the fearful general public eyed me wearily.
Now we’re packing out of coronavirus fear. Specifically, the fear of violence from a landlord who’s using our gay non-monogamous lifestyle, essentially our refusal to quarantine, as an excuse to evict my lover, myself, and some young queer kids (one with breast cancer) who are fresh out of an abusive youth shelter. My lover took them in as an act of harm reduction. Our landlord has made a pattern of freaking out on us. He tried to assault a friend of mine- his former tenant, after months of sexually harassing her. We’re hoping to get out tonight: to cut and run to the relative safety of a friend’s house in another part of New Orleans, where the fear is high but we still party in the streets. Because you just have to go on living, right?
It was who we are that saved us from falling onto the street too, that we had this network of friends and lovers and family who are gay and punk and thus poor, and loving enough to give us the little we have now. Members of our community watch out for each other, taking care of small things in big ways- like making a meal for everyone you know, or gently bathing your lover. We continue to give head to new partners in parks, fuck in each other’s beds. We have ecstatic orgies of packed punk shows, drunkenly leaning on people we adore. We still have coffee together in the morning, where we talk it out like we’re almost a real community- though who knows what community is in the digital age.
It’s true that our lives are so very interdependent, that we can’t just stop doing the things that keep each other alive because of fear. We stand to lose so much without these connections. Our city is shutting down and the work is gone. Our friends are choosing between food and rent, and contemplating what will happen when we can’t afford either. My partner and I don’t give a fuck about rent now; we have to eat while I wait to start this non-profit job- at least aid organizations probably won’t shut down. But we’re at as much risk from the economic collapse as the actual virus, if it gets as bad as people fear it will. This lover and I are both immunocompromised. Both of us are prone to lung infections. I’ve been hospitalized almost yearly for them, and many of our friends say similar things. Last night outside a local liquor store, we had an impromptu anti-quarantine party on the sidewalk. So many of my friends there felt the same way: if it takes me, well, it takes me, but we don’t have the luxury of pausing our day to day lives to quarantine. Even when/if the city shuts down, our lives will have to go on.
Post-script: we’ve learned through an insider that at 3 p.m. the mayor will announce a complete shutdown of the city. What that will look like, I have no clue. But I’m gonna go on a booze run beforehand.