The sun still shines in Madrid, but we woke up yesterday morning to this message.*
In a way, it was good to finally hear this, and have everybody else finally hear this. Since Monday, I’ve been trying to juggle two completely incompatible streams of incoming information — “it’s nothing” vs “holy f*&K”. The fact that my Spanish school didn’t actually cancel face-to-face classes until 4 pm yesterday, when it became illegal to hold them, only heightened the dissonance this week. I had kids at home, a husband teleworking, but at the same time I was getting tips that this was a perfect time to go to the Michelin-starred restaurants in town. We owed it to the restaurant owners!
This, I think, has been the most stressful thing about this new normal so far. For days, I’ve been asking myself whether I was worrying too much — or not enough. Human nature seems to automatically swing to one or to the other.
Somewhere in the middle, of course, is right where you want to be.
Mid-morning yesterday, they announced that all the restaurant terraces in Madrid were closing, and Mark and I debated: did this mean sidewalk cafes, or rooftop terrace restaurants??? (turns out it meant both, but the question was moot within a couple of hours, when they closed down the restaurants entirely.) My inability to understand nuance might be the second most stressful thing about this new normal.
At 1:30, I learned they’d be closing all bars and restaurants at midnight, and also that the head of the government would be holding a press conference in a couple of hours.
Until that news, things had been pretty chill at our grocery store. People bought, but just a little more — not a lot. Yesterday, things felt different. The restaurants on my route to the store were closing, and the usual throngs at the sidewalk cafes were gone. When I noticed that, I realized something important: it’s street life that makes Madrid Madrid. Madrileños live their lives en la calle. When that stops, you really get that this isn’t business as usual.
At the grocery store, there weren’t many people pushing carts around, but those that were, were mostly wearing plastic gloves. Everybody stayed two meters apart. On the way home, we saw a line that wrapped around the block at the tabaco as people stocked up on cigarettes.
To tell you the truth, it felt good to get back to our apartment. We’re kind of on top of each other, and we’re going through food at a prodigious rate (stress eating?) but home feels manageable. Our terrace is a godsend — all of us have gone out there by ourselves and communed for a while. The neighbors in the buildings across the streets are using their terraces more, too. We make eye contact, nod, and smile.
So here we are. So far, we’ve watched Valley Girl and The Royal Tennenbaums. We have a pandemic puzzle going, a pandemic hat and a pandemic sweater being knitted. Today, without the structure of online school and work, will be interesting.
Sooner or later, Scrabble will be played.
*Which translates more bluntly to: Stay the Fuck Home.