The loss of human connection that’s accompanied quarantine has been challenging for everyone, testing the limits of even the most brooding introverts and diehard homebodies. Staying socially active, let alone dating, during the era of minimal sunshine and maximal Netflix is disheartening to say the least. Zoom calls and dating apps fail to fill the hole left by in-person interaction.
But this isn’t the dampened narrative of all relationships. Some fortunate few have felt their connections deepen to new levels through the chaos of the last few months. This series is dedicated to those bright spots of human connection in a time where they seem few and far between.
Cristina and Shan met in 2019 through the Marriage Pact at Stanford University. They’d never heard of each other before: Shan is a junior from Las Vegas, and Cristina is a sophomore from Moldova.
Cristina: I reached out first. I got the email, and I waited a day for him to reach out (but he didn’t) so I was like ‘Okay … I’m gonna try to do it.’ So I sent him an email like "Yo … there’s this thing … do you wanna meet up?"
Shan: Literally, quote unquote, "yo."
Cristina: Yeah, I was trying to keep it casual! And make it seem like I didn’t care if he said no.
Shan: We met at Coupa Cafe on the day of Big Game for two hours. We both wanted to go to the game but ended up missing most of it. We clicked really quickly.
The meeting began casually, with both parties treating it as just another opportunity to meet an interesting classmate. They talked through each of their answers to the questionnaire, discovering alignment in life goals, politics, habits … and eventually, virtually everything. The conversation flowed naturally. After that first meeting, there was no doubt that they wanted to meet again, but quickly parted ways for Thanksgiving break (“That was a long week,” Cristina says.)
Cristina: I was afraid. I was really afraid of wanting anything, because I was like ‘oh my gosh, he’s so cool — he’s probably not going to be interested.’ I was trying to keep it chill, even though I really wasn’t chill.
After winter break, they started hanging out almost every day.
Cristina: During the first week back, he asked me to be exclusive. I didn’t understand at the time that he was asking me to be his girlfriend! But yeah, we started dating. Winter quarter was really nice, even though it was busy.
Shan: We’d be taking classes and working until midnight, and then I’d come to Granada, her dorm, and hang out until 3 AM. I probably spent twenty to thirty nights freezing out there, walking home. We had such a great time.
They had big plans for Spring Break — time spent together at Shan’s house so that Cristina could meet his family. But, in typical 2020 fashion, things didn’t go exactly according to plan. Since students were never invited back to Stanford’s campus, Cristina and Shan’s spring break trip simply didn’t end. A brand new relationship, a global pandemic, and an inability to leave contained quarters would likely paint a pessimistic picture of the couple’s future. In the face of all odds, their path took an unexpected trajectory.
Cristina: That one-week stay got extended to 5 months now because of quarantine. And yet, no matter how much time I spend with him, it never seems to be enough. It is great that I could find someone that is so like me and so much better than me at the same time. It also feels amazing to be in love, something that the cynical me would have never believed before.
I’m just so happy.
We’re still in the thick of languid quarantine days filled with socially-distant gatherings and an overuse of Zoom. As for Cristina and Shan, things continue to look up. They’re still living together and even received approval for Stanford’s couples-without-children housing when campus living reopens (if that ever happens). They’re a definite bright spot of quarantine: a reminder that circumstances will shift, and you’ll often find yourself caught off-guard — but if it’s real, it’s real, and hope is always right around the corner.