A little more than a month ago, Kesse, 29, traveled to visit a dear friend of his, and as they hung out together, he realized that he had developed feelings for her. At the time, he decided to keep his feelings a secret. But after they parted and he went home to Germany, she informed him that she’d come down with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus that has rapidly infected more than 1 million people across the globe. Kesse immediately became “incredibly worried for her life and safety”—and then he, too, began to feel unwell. He has been recovering for the past two weeks from an illness he believes to be COVID-19, though he says he’s been unable to get a test.
Kesse eventually went to the emergency room, and “seeing so many people [there] in pain, some of them dying, had an impact on me,” he told me. He’d lost loved ones before, and began to worry that if he succumbed to the virus, his friend would never know how much she meant to him. “Being ill and seeing people in a worse state than myself made me decide I didn’t want to waste time pretending not to have the feelings I have.” The next day, he told her he liked her.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly, dramatically altered daily life all over the globe, this has been one of the more surprising effects: Thanks to a potent mixture of anxiety, boredom, loneliness, and cabin fever–induced recklessness, people are revealing their feelings to the objects of their affection—“shooting their shot,” so to speak. In some cases, this is because social-distancing measures have forced most interactions to take place remotely or virtually, lowering the stakes considerably; in other cases, like Kesse’s, it’s because the stakes are now higher than ever. In just about every case, though, it’s safe to say that either the coronavirus pandemic or the protocols that have come with it have changed the trajectory of the relationship between the two people in question.