19 during Covid-19: Showing love in so few words

Five interns at The Sunday Times reflect on how the pandemic has affected their lives and what they have learnt during this period of enforced isolation

Once, I joked with a friend that my love language was quality time - spent apart.

"What do you have to talk about if you're always together anyway?" I asked, curious about couples who seem to be meeting each other every day.

With a laugh, she said: "You think they just talk?"

Oh. No conversation tips for this circuit breaker then - but it did make me think about how much people's relationships are based on non-verbal interaction.

I have two friends I meet regularly and most of our time is spent watching a movie at each other's homes where we don't talk much. Unsurprisingly, we haven't been seeing much of each other over the Internet.

While everyone around me seems to be hosting Zoom happy hours or becoming committed Houseparty dwellers, video calls with my younger brother barely last five minutes.

The screen lights up and I am delighted to see his face, but just as quickly run out of things to say.

I ask: "You eat already? What'd you do today?"

"Udon," he says, or "making eggs", then: "When are you coming home?"

Ironically, this is sort of the reason I'm not with him in the first place.

Weeks ago, my 80-year-old grandmother let me move into her home so we could stay in touch without a series of formulaic phone calls.

The writer, 19, and her grandmother having lunch in the latter's kitchen.
The writer, 19, and her grandmother having lunch in the latter's kitchen. PHOTO: COURTESY OF HANNAH BOCK

Seldom do I crave conversation, but it is a comfort when she cooks and we eat our meals together at the small stone table in a corner of her kitchen.

I'm learning again to appreciate just being in the presence of people I care about.

In the past, I would try to comfort friends only to end up apologising clumsily for never finding the right words to say.

"It's okay, you know," one of them finally said. "I don't really feel like talking either. Sometimes, I just want someone to be here."

There are some things we can't replace with a webcam or text message and I'm reminded not to take being close to those I love for granted.

But in times like these, I know I'm lucky to have ways of staying connected without necessarily saying a word.

Like a true digital native, my love language has evolved to become... sharing memes (and occasionally more wholesome things).

To my music-loving mother, I send a clip of a saxophone and keyboard player performing My Heart Will Go On from their balconies in Spain.

A cross-section of a turtle shell (which is apparently connected to their body) whizzes across cyber space to my brother.

"I think you'll like this," friends tell me, sharing books, movies, even a custom-made playlist.

From my father, I receive articles he thinks are much better than the ones I write (to motivate you, he says).

Even when there seems to be very little to say, they are always there to brighten the day.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 10, 2020, with the headline 19 during Covid-19: Showing love in so few words. Subscribe