‘If COVID never happened, would we still be together?’

AJ, 21 and Jamie, 22 | Victor, ID

AJ works at the front desk of an urgent care center in Jackson, Wyoming. He speaks softly and has green eyes. Jamie, his girlfriend, works for the same hospital system. She’s a year older than AJ, and she laughs to herself when they talk about their relationship. Like many who work in Jackson, they live 45 minutes away, across the Teton Mountain Range, in Victor, Idaho. We sit down together on cement benches under a gazebo in downtown Victor.


AJ: I was like damn, I’m 20 and I have no job, no car, and I’m living with my mom, you feel me? I don't even have my own room in my mom's place. I can't even help with the bills ‘cause I'm broke. I felt stuck. And my friends just weren't like that. On social media I'm seeing them live better lives. I felt like they were way more ahead, like everybody eatin’ but me. I was like damn, why can’t I be as strong as them? And they had good relationships, whereas I felt like all of mine were dying. It was hard to get used to that distance away from Jamie.

Jamie: We planned to move in together when the semester was over, but everything turned a lot less likely because of the pandemic. Traveling, especially from my small town in Idaho to see AJ in a big city like Colorado Springs seemed scary. I started to think, I don't think this is ever gonna happen.

AJ: I really liked Jamie and the thought of moving in together was lovely. So the fact that that couldn't happen over something none of us had control over... it hurt.

Jamie: We met the first day of school at Central Wyoming College — the first hours. I thought he was cute... [They laugh.] He was on a bench just bustin’ out Snoop Dogg. We just got along and I never really got sick of him... [He laughs.] I liked going to basketball games together. That was something I missed when COVID kicked us out.

AJ: We said goodbye with the intention of seeing each other again.

Jamie: When we went back to our hometowns we tried to keep in touch but things started to … [She pauses.]

AJ: Especially on my side. Back home was very, very crowded. It was me, my little brother, his girlfriend, and my mom in her one bedroom apartment. It was hard to manage school. I ended up not finishing that semester. I got exhausted. I didn't have access to the internet. I didn't have my own car so trying to get to a library was challenging. I didn't even have a freakin’ phone, bro. [They laugh.] And we communicated through Snapchat so I couldn’t even use the laptop I had because you can’t use Snapchat on a computer. Sometimes we didn't speak for days. It was hard… like when you see somebody every day, and sleep with them at night… not having that is hard.

Jamie: We went from spending every day together to strangers 800 miles away. And then I lost my job and I was panicking. I was like fuck, my car payments due next week. I was scrambling to get money. I borrowed from my family to pay for my car, credit card, and government bills. And I just broke down because everything was going south. I like extreme control: in control of my money, in control of my school, and in control of my job. And to just be stripped away… it made me feel hopeless.

AJ: And no matter what I did, it was never gonna be the same.

Jamie: We stopped talking in May. Things just died out and I never thought we’d talk again. Then I was on YouTube one day in late September, and there was this song that dropped on AJ’s channel. He’s a rapper lowkey. It’s called “Late Nights,” and I listened to it and the song was kinda like a story. And I’m like oh, we met on a bench. Oh, we did that in college. And then near the end of the song he literally says my name. Word for word. And we hadn’t talked for months—

AJ: We hadn’t talked for so long but there was so much I wanted to say. I’d been holding it in.

Jamie: It was a big surprise. Cause I really thought our relationship was dead but I still thought about him. So when he came out with that song, it was just kind of like, he's still thinking about me too.


AJ: The song wrote itself, like all I did was have the pencil in my hand, put it on paper, take it to the studio. The song was about her, but I didn’t have the intention of putting Jamie’s name in it. But when we were in college, I wrote a rap for Jamie where I spelled her name. J is for the joy that you bring me cada día [every day]. A is for amor de mi vida [love of my life]. M is for tu sabes eres mía [you know you’re mine]. I is for how selfish you can be. E is for eternity. That part wasn’t new, but it fit perfectly!

When I dropped it, the song was doing really well. There were hundreds of people that viewed it on YouTube, and I kept wondering if one of those people was Jamie. I’m like, one of these people has to be Jamie. I needed to know so I texted her. I asked her if she heard it, but I didn’t get the response I wanted. I was like damn, she must not feel the same way.

Jamie: I loved the song. It’s one of my favorite songs ever. But he hadn’t texted or called for months and then out of the blue he comes out with a song that’s like, I still love you. I thought, if you really did love me why didn’t you reach out once? Like one time?

AJ: So I left her alone after that. But every now and then she would reach out and see if I was doing okay. We’d chop it up a little bit and then stop talking again. In December she reached out and yeah. [He laughs.] We didn’t stop talking.

Jamie: December was like nonstop talking. I got corona so I was stuck inside and I talked to him all day, every day. We would have seven hour phone calls, something insane like that. I would fall asleep talking to him. He’d be like, “just leave the phone on.” So I’d fall asleep and he’d be on the call. Then we’d both fall asleep.

AJ: She snores, so I told her to put her phone on mute. [He laughs.]

Jamie: No I don’t! [They both laugh.]

AJ: Once I got her back, I felt like I had somebody to really talk with again, to open up to.

Jamie: Seeing each other was a constant thought. Like maybe one day, instead of just a phone call, we could be in person. I mentioned that the hospital I worked at was hiring here in Idaho.

AJ: I applied, and I thought there’s no fucking way, there’s just no fucking way. And her manager hits me back and gives me a fucking interview, bro! That’s when moving to Idaho really became an option. That fell through, but I started applying to different jobs in the area because I got certified as a phlebotomist. I had an interview with the urgent care clinic, the one you saw me at, and it went really well. They hired me, and I booked my flight.

AJ working at an urgent care center in Jackson, WY.

Jamie: I talked to my mom about it and she was like, “Yeah, he can stay with us.” Now mind you that my mom’s a super traditional Mexican mom, like super, super traditional. I was like, “What? He can?” And she was like, “Yeah, he can stay with us. Just get married.” I was shocked. I didn’t even have a response. I told AJ what she said and now we’re married… No, no, just kidding. [They laugh.] We started looking at —

AJ: Different options, like maybe we could sign papers but didn’t have to have the ceremony. Or if we just got engaged to let her mom know we’re serious but not get married. I didn’t want to get married at such a young age but damn, if that's what I have to do to prove to Jamie’s family that I'm serious about her… so be it.

Jamie: When I told my mom that AJ said he would do it she backed off the idea. She said it was just a test for me. She realized that he was real about me. That made me feel like this was very real, like we were doing the right thing.

AJ: Now we share the same room, we share the same bed…

Jamie: Work for the same hospital.

AJ: Share the same fucking laundry. [They laugh.] We’re one. It’ll be two months living together on the 10th.

Jamie: Sometimes I wonder if COVID never happened, would we still be together? We were forced to be apart by school, by money. But like, if COVID never happened would we actually have still been together after the semester? And would we have been where we are now?

Victor, Idaho
Interview Date: May 5, 2021