Separated By COVID-19 Quarantine, Newlyweds Confront Virus Together

Feb 19, 2021
Originally published on February 19, 2021 7:14 am

When Omar Anani first met his wife, Namira Islam Anani, he was instantly smitten. But for Namira, it took a literal wake-up call to realize that he was the one.

In a StoryCorps conversation last month, Omar, 39, and Namira, 33, shared their love story from Detroit, where he works as a restaurant owner and chef and she's a nonprofit lawyer.

After meeting on a dating app, the couple went on their first date in August 2019.

A week later, Namira asked Omar for a favor.

"I had asked you to wake me up early, and then you did," Namira said.

She expected his phone call, but she didn't expect Omar to show up in person. Not long after they hung up, Namira was surprised by a knock on the door.

"I look through the little peephole, and I'm like, 'Wait a second — is that Omar?' And I also was thinking, 'I don't have any makeup on, like he hasn't seen me without makeup on,' and then I had to grab my scarf," she recalled. "Then, when I opened the door, you just handed me this cup of coffee and left. Just to make me happy and put a smile on my face."

"And I think that was the moment it just settled: This is the guy that I'm in love with and I'm gonna marry."

They married that November.

"I knew right away," Omar told his wife, "whereas you took some time to warm up to the idea."

But not too long.

"It was three weeks, right?" Namira said, laughing. "Within three weeks we agreed to get married."

In March, the newlyweds were dealt a health scare when Namira contracted COVID-19.

"That was really, really rough," Omar said.

Namira quarantined for more than a month while she suffered serious symptoms.

"We were separated for six weeks because I would never be able to forgive myself if something happened to you and you caught it," she said.

For the first few days, she struggled with breathing.

"You were calling, and then sometimes I couldn't pick up and then when I could pick up, every two words I was having to stop to take a breath," she said.

Namira asked her husband what that time was like for him.

"Back then, COVID was still new and I think my ignorance allowed me to not think those dark thoughts," Omar said. Since then, he said, he has had multiple friends die from the coronavirus.

"It's very hard, especially when you're the person that likes to fix things, right?" he said. "And there's no 'fix-it' when it comes to that."

When Namira was sick, he would leave her food on the doorstep. One day, they had a socially distanced meal.

"I sat in the driveway in my truck and you sat in the bay window of the living room," he said. "We kind of just sat there and ate dinner and talked to each other."

It was a special moment, Namira remembered.

"It was one of those moments where it really cemented to me how important our relationship was and how much joy it brought into my life. I'm like, I want this level of happiness, and I want this joy," she said.

"Just like how I knew right away that you were the right person to spend the rest of my life with, I know and have faith that no matter how tough things get, they're gonna be OK," Omar told her.

Audio produced for Morning Edition by Janmaris Perez. NPR's Emma Bowman adapted it for the Web.

StoryCorps is a national nonprofit that gives people the chance to interview friends and loved ones about their lives. These conversations are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, allowing participants to leave a legacy for future generations. Learn more, including how to interview someone in your life, at StoryCorps.org.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And it's Friday when we hear StoryCorps. And today we have a COVID love story from Detroit. When Omar Anani first met his wife Namira, he was instantly smitten. But for Namira, it took asking Omar for a wake-up call to realize he was the one. Here, she remembers that moment.

NAMIRA ISLAM ANANI: I had asked you to wake me up early, and then you did. I remember we hung up and then there's a knock on the door and I look through the little peephole and I'm like, wait a second. Is that Omar? And I also was thinking I don't have any makeup on. Like, he hasn't seen me without makeup on. And then I had to grab my scarf. And then when I opened the door, you just handed me this cup of coffee and left, just to make me happy and put a smile on my face. And I think that was the moment. It just settled. This is the guy that I'm in love with and I'm going to marry.

OMAR ANANI: I knew right away, whereas you took some time to warm up to the idea.

N ANANI: It was three weeks (laughter) right? Within three weeks, we agreed to get married. What was going through your mind when you found out I had COVID? What was that time like for you?

O ANANI: That was really, really rough, especially being newly married, right? We'd only been married for, like - what? - four months.

N ANANI: And then we were separated for six weeks because I would never be able to forgive myself if something happened to you and you caught it. When I first got sick, it was a Wednesday. From Wednesday to Saturday, my breathing got a lot worse, and you were calling and then sometimes I couldn't pick up. And then when I could pick up, every two words, I was having to stop to take a breath.

O ANANI: Back then, COVID was still new. And I think my ignorance allowed me to not think those dark thoughts. Since then, I've had multiple friends die from COVID. So it's very hard, especially when you're the person that likes to fix things, right? And there is no fix it when it comes to that. I remember bringing you food and I would sit on the doorstep. And I remember one day I sat in the driveway in my truck and you sat in the bay window of the living room. We kind of just sat there and ate dinner and talked to each other.

N ANANI: It was one of those moments where it really cemented to me how important our relationship was and how much joy it brought into my life. I'm like, I want this level of happiness and I want this joy.

O ANANI: Just like how I knew right away that you were the right person to spend the rest of my life with, I know and have faith that no matter how tough things get, they're going to be OK.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHRIS ZABRISKIE'S "NIRVANAVEVO")

INSKEEP: Omar Anani and Namira Islam Anani. Omar is the owner and chef of a restaurant in Detroit, and Namira is a nonprofit lawyer. Their interview will be archived at the Library of Congress with hundreds of thousands of others. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.