It is now October. Im in metropolitan Melbourne and Im not paying attention to Dan Ands announcements until something significant changes. Andnow you can stay out until 9pm. Andnow you can exercise for two hours. Andrews rolls out more Andsto appease a frustrated population who are seven months into an on-again-offagain relationship with the restrictions.

I think a Roadmap landmark kicked over at 11:59pm last night but Im too tried, too fatigued, too bored of it all to check the details. What Im hanging out for is an announcement that I am able to see my friends. No, not friends. I would settle for one friend. I would settle for the legality of one friend being inside my home.

I despise the fact that this is another piece of online covid content but Im going to get this out quickly a 15 minute read max. Before everything changes at the end of October. And we rejoice in each others company and forget what was made shamelessly transparent during this period.

Choices have been made by the Victorian government about what kind of experience certain people will have of this pandemic. And these experiences were determined well before COVID. The insufficient housing assigned to migrants permitted the vulnerability of those living in the North Melbourne and Flemington Towers should a crisis hit. Along with providing care, seeking medical attention, travelling to work and exercising, it has been deemed essential that intimate partners be able to freely visit each others homes. What would be more devastating to the economy than if we stopped people reproducing more consumers and more workers?

 Throughout this year those who are in a relationship of a sexual nature have benefitted from the freedom to dwell in each others abodes and access touch, affection and face to face contact without the imposition of wearing a mask. Its not just the law itself that is prohibiting the single person accessing the same needs. Theres a households interpretation of that law. My access to my friends has been limited by the government and also by my peers. My friends and I live between different share houses. How I go about this pandemic is determined largely by my housemates, and friends housemates relationship to law. Respectful of those I live with, as my friends also are, I am bound to the rules of our wider social network. In discovering what their relationship to law is, a conversation with a housemate will go something like this;

  • me: hey just checking that youre comfortable with x coming over tonight?
  • housemate: is it like a date?
  • me: no, its a friend
  • housemate: ooo ummm ahhh Im not so sure

The subtext;

  • me: hey just checking that youre comfortable with x coming over tonight?
  • housemate: are you fucking and directly making contact with their body and guaranteeing an exchange of germs?
  • me: no
  • housemate: sorry nahhhhh

This effort to converse, negotiate and meet compromises with housemates to have some contact with a platonic friend (which often eventuates in no meeting at all) is a conversation that would not be had if I was fucking this person. Are we hugging?Are we doing the hug thing?a friend asks another on the street.

I have encountered an unquestioning obedience of law amongst peers that I find dangerous. This adherence to law is often motivated by very real consequences of being fined an amount they cannot afford. Their behaviour is often in the interest of following guidelines that are framed to assist in preserving the health of those around them and has good reason in taking responsibility for their own health. But the complacency, the unthinking complacency, toward the value structures informing the detail of these laws before the choice is made to follow them, is something I have little tolerance for the more and more the pandemic chugs along and society breaks open to reveal the capitalist agenda at its core.

 Juggling a bottle of hand sanitiser and my credit card to open a packet of chewing gum before I seal my coffee breath beneath my face mask, I begin my walk around the burbs with my friend. State of disaster, but yes speciality coffee shops may still be frequented as one of the only services operating to offer an addictive drug that is compounding anxiety and sleep deprivation amongst the inner urbanites. We are now walking. I cant see her whole face of course and we cant stop moving, knowing our stationary bodies dwelling outside of our homes will be up for scrutiny. So my friend and I walk side by side making it nearly impossible to make eye contact.

This interaction is difficult because its made to be difficult. Because were legally not meant to be doing this. Public space has been made as hostile as possible to disable these kinds of extraneousinteractions. Were grateful for a raised gutter edging a carpark to perch on for just a moment to face each other. Coffee in hand and bike in the other, this meeting with my friend we disguise with a two-fold defence under the legal behaviour of shopping for foodand exercising.

I serve another friend homemade curry pie and gin in my backyard. Whats the difference between meeting in a sizeable backyard or a pedestrian paths whose width cannot accommodate the 1.5 meter distance the scooter-riding-children, cyclists, runners, dogs and walkers are meant to keep? A lot less risk. We sit on plastic chairs just outside the back door in the middle of winter out of respect that both our homes do not host anyone other than intimate partners.

After my friend leaves, I wash his plate, knife, fork and glass in the laundry with a sponge that I throw away and a tea towel that I immediately put in the wash, soaping my hands to book end this cleanse. Treating my friend like poison after he left was an uneasy feeling in itself. What was worse was requesting him to use the back toilet after dinner. This toilet is a smelly brown stained bowl that flushes only sometimes because a tree root penetrated the plumbing (an issue that my landlord initially refused to my face to fix because it would be too costly to improve a property he eventually will pull down). I send my friend to this shit-congested cubicle because we don’t use itand I suppose will pose least threat of cross contamination to my housemates than if he were to come inside. Host and guest alike, we both accepted this, but nonetheless, it undermined his dignity.

I queer my life to organise the kinds of relationships I have with people. The centre of my life is not a romance and it is not family where everything else falls and takes priority. This is an active choice I made about how I want to live. It is the way I exercise freedom and honour agency.

 The effort to initiate conversations, juggle bike and coffees, dish soap and tea towels, is a kind of labour that feels awfully familiar to other experiences of being on the other end of privilege. These experiences are when energy is given to the slightest of efforts that have big consequences. Removing headphones as a woman when you step off the tram to walk to the front door after dark. Carrying a big key between the fingers on another night. Energy is spent by some that others have never expended, because they don’t have to, because they don’t know that kind of labor exists.

Are these a privileged set of complaints Im making about a circumstance that is causing death, suicide and poverty? Of course. Are the political revelations that can come from these complaintsunrelated to what is causing death, suicide and poverty? No.

The language of the intimate partnerlaw is exclusionary in the fact that it does not make the alternative possible. What would that look like? Primary support personlaw? A state of disaster is not the time for experimenting when authorities are trying to give instruction to a large and diverse population. It is a time for using language and structures that already exist in the mainstream of a colonised nation; postcode 3072, Melbourne, intimate partner. The language is insufficient in taking into account anything more complex than a monogamous coupledom between two people. This framework has its origins in heteronormative thinking, the priority of which is to protect and maintain the nuclear family – the most digestible of structures to capitalism.

In any state of emergency we default to what is the most important. When the body experiences threat it preserves its core organs, the brain and heart, taking attention away from the edges of its form; its fingers and toes. This is what is most upsetting about the pandemic restrictions. In a crisis, we have defaulted to what is core. And what has been elected to be at the core, and what has been fiercely defended, is the relationships people have with their sexual partner and their offspring. What is familiar, what is understood, what is practiced, what is already there, what is valued, is capitalism and all that is in service to it. What is given nourishment is a system devaluing all other kinds of ways of making kin, of loving deeply outside of family. And this is what terrifies me to my core.

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