Yesterday marked the beginning of what in normal times is Spain’s biggest holiday, Semana Santa — Holy Week — as well as what might, maybe, could be the second half of our lockdown. For what feels like weeks but really has only been days we’ve been told we’re approaching the peak. How long can one approach a peak before they finally reach it? This is a long slog, perilously steep, and even before we were locked in our houses we were deconditioned for work of this sort. But now they say, hopefully, that Spain’s cases seem to be reaching the plateau before the descent. For the first time since this all began, El Pais ran a story yesterday positing what life might look like as restrictions ease. In the article, José María Martin Moreno, professor of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Valencia, said
…tengo esperanza en que podamos ir a la playa y estoy convencido de que tendremos grandes oportunidades para vivir la vida con afecto e intensidad…
(I have hope that we will go to the beach and I am convinced that we will have grand opportunities to live life with affection and intensity…)
Eons ago, around March 1, I started planning a Semana Santa trip that would wind through some the pueblas blancas of Spain and end in Cádiz, all clear, scouring light, white walls, and tumbling riots of pink bougainvillea. How naive this seems, now, just a month later! What on earth was I thinking? Why could we not read the tea leaves spread out before us? Why is it always, always human nature, to not truly feel things, until they butt hard up against you, until they knock the wind out of you?
There’s a poem circulating in these Corona-days, the gist of which is: we’ll stay home, we’ll learn something and then we’ll be better people. I’m cynical enough by nature that this feels a little like a panacea, a sop. I’m afraid the higher likelihood is that humanity will behave like the abusive spouse it usually is: when it realizes its partner, packing a suitcase, is really leaving this time, it always promises to change its ways. When the partner relents and stays, it’s back to business as usual. It’s very hard for leopards to change their spots.
But maybe, maybe, if we work hard enough, when this is over, taking a two-hour walk can be vacation enough. Sitting at the cafe on the corner, nursing a coffee, can be a heady experience. And it will be glorious, to walk down the sidewalk, to live life with affection and intensity, and be able to see the faces, the smiles, of each person walking toward you.