My alarm goes off at 7:45 am. On some mornings my partner, Layne, is there laying next to me. But today it's just me and my little terrier mutt, Paco, who sleeps with his head on my chest. He has terrible breath, but the cuddles are worth it.
Layne is at his house in Koreatown with his roommate. We have decided that, for the time being, we're going to split our time between our two homes — some nights together, some nights apart.
"Good morning!" I text Layne, "I love you." Checking in has become a ritual of ours during lockdown.
I let Paco out, feed the cats, and make coffee. I put Bon Iver on the record player and sit down to write.
I can hear Matías, a friend who recently moved to Los Angeles from New York City, in the guest room. Alex, my ex-husband, is moving around in his room.
I am a 51-year-old gay man in an open relationship with my partner, which means we are allowed to play with other guys — together and apart. I'm quarantining with my ex-husband, his boyfriend, and our friend.
A lot of people ask me what it's like to live with my former partner. I tell them that he is like a brother. Just because things didn't work out in our marriage doesn't mean we don't want play a large role in each other's lives.
We live in a small three-bedroom craftsman house in Hollywood with a guest house in the back, where our friend — Robert — lives. We also have a front yard, and a backyard.
Sometimes it is just me, Alex, and Matías. Sometimes Layne is with us and Alex's boyfriend, Dylan, too. Dylan is quarantining in Silverlake with his roommate.
This is my family during the coronavirus pandemic: Five gay men, two cats, and a dog.
We are three separate households all coming together during this period of lockdown. We have very clear rules. We have all agreed to follow the guidelines around social distancing. We wear face masks when we have to go out, frequently wash our hands, and don't engage in potentially "dangerous" activity with anyone outside our extended family.
We know it's not just ourselves we are putting at risk.
Living in lockdown has forced us all to examine how we live our lives and how we approach our relationship with each other and other guys. Layne and I have had to talk a lot about what it means right now to be in an open relationship.
We decided that for the duration of the lockdown we would not be meeting other men. We are allowed to chat, video chat, attend Zoom "circle jerks' and exchange all the pictures we want. But for now, physically, it is just us.
We can revisit this as the world slowly begins to open up.
Being fluid is one of the most important tools in an open relationship. We both agree that we want to be able to explore other sexual partners, to be able to have experiences together and separate. But we are also aware that there will be times in our relationship when we will need to close things up, focus only on ourselves, or maybe renegotiate the rules around our status.
I've learned that non-traditional relationships require a lot of communication. Sometimes I feel like all we do is talk — even more so than when I have been in more traditional monogamous partnerships.
It is important that Layne gets to express his feelings around my living with my ex and it's my job to listen and to try to be as open and honest as possible.
For the most part it works. Layne is part of my family, just like Alex and Dylan and Matías are.
But living under stay-at-home rules can exacerbate any situation. We find balance in coming together for family time, when we eat dinner, watch movies, or just sit in the yard and in also allowing each other private space.
Finding this balance isn't always easy.
Sometimes we don't behave well. I have also found that small things can make me angry — if someone's hat is left on the table, if there are a few unwashed dishes, or there are no more cookies. Things that in normal times would not have bothered me can make me want to scream. Learning to self-regulate has been a challenge.