Pandemic Diaries: Why I started doing crosswords in quarantine

Serena+Golden+poses+for+a+portrait.+Photo+by+Suzanna+Arul

Serena Golden poses for a portrait. Photo by Suzanna Arul

I went to stay at my parents’ house when campus closed in March at the onset of the pandemic. I packed up my room in a single day, threw away what didn’t fit in my car and began the drive to my hometown where I didn’t yet know I’d stay for the next two months. I didn’t just leave my room at Mercer — I left my boyfriend who wasn’t my boyfriend yet. 

In quarantine with my parents for two months was the worst time to enter a budding relationship. When I left Macon, we were still just in the “talking” phase. I didn’t even say “I like you” for the first time until a week before I moved out, driven to honesty by the prospect of never seeing each other again if campus remained closed until he graduated in May. 

We both had elaborate plans for the year — moving abroad and flashy internships left no room for serious relationships, but in a few short weeks, these opportunities would be delayed indefinitely. Suddenly our once-packed schedules were wide open, yet we had no way to see each other. 

Talking on the phone made me feel 13 again, sneaking calls to my boyfriends out of my parents’ earshot. Zoom felt too awkward — I couldn’t imagine going on a date the same way I went to class. 

I haven’t been one to do crosswords for most of my life. I found them tedious and frustrating, but I’d never tried completing one with another person. The Washington Post crosswords are available online for free, and their website allows two people to work on the same puzzle from separate computers. Suddenly, crosswords were the most romantic date I’d ever been on. 

We completed a puzzle once a week, taking our time on the Sunday crosswords to make the ‘date’ last longer. In the midst of worrying about school, cancelled internships and the global pandemic, crosswords became the thing I looked forward to most.

Starting a relationship in the middle of a pandemic made quarantine more bearable. Sometimes, it felt like the news didn’t touch us, like we’d left the real world and made our own far away from it. 

Now that we’re back together in person, crosswords feel like a memento of the beginning of the pandemic. Once all this ends, when the world is back to normal, I’ll think of the puzzles as a way I felt connected to the person who brought a silver lining to the end of the world.