A fairy tale seemed like a great place to take leave of our story, but fairy tales, no matter how lovely, are never life, entirely. The plot trundles on after the Happy Ever After — likewise, Phase 0 keeps on keeping on after the terrible trombone player stops playing I Will Survive.
Throughout these strange days, I’ve really been enjoying my fantasy that Spain lacked the sort of angry agitation America excels at. Actually, enjoying is the wrong word: I’ve been clinging to this view, brought about by equal parts isolation and lack of language skills, like it was a lifeline. But yesterday, someone in my Moms of Class of 2020 wasap asked us all to write Pablo Casado, the leader of PP, to request that he vote against extending the state of alarm and the dictadura social-podemita (this sort of translates to the far-left dictatorship). Vox, the far-right party, wants us to quit applauding for the essential workers, because applauding for them keeps us from beating pots against the government. (There’s a lot less applause now, but that’s because most adults go outside to exercise right at 8 p.m.) Then an anti-vaxer posted a petition on the Expats of Madrid FB feed.
This, I’m afraid, is the coda honesty forces me to add to The Fairy Tale, just in case some future person reads this diario virus and wants to try to extrapolate things from it.
Back in early April, when someone was dying roughly every minute and a half in Spain, you didn’t see this kind of thing, just pictures of bread people baked and heart emojis. Maybe when you’re terrified there’s no room for bile. Or maybe it all comes down to trying to exert control over something we have absolutely no power over, el mal bicho, el puto virus. Some of us try to control it by wiping down the soles of our shoes with bleach, others by convincing ourselves it’s no worse than the flu.
Before Eldest was born, back when we were young and foolish, M and I spent weeks agonizing over the baby gear: safest stroller, safest car seat, best crib to go with our decor. Because the pregnancy books suggested it, I wrote a Birth Plan detailing how I wanted things to go once I got to the hospital: no bath for baby right away (she got a bath); no interventions unless absolutely necessary (as if I knew anything about that). Around the same time, my mother suggested that maybe my generation tried to control everything. I rolled my eyes, because that’s exactly what you should do when your mother points out something like this.
But maybe there’s something to that, maybe we’ve been lucky enough to live most of our lives in a world we have at least the illusion of controlling. And now here we are, confronted with an implacable adversary whose raison d’être is not to be controlled. It doesn’t care whether we believe in irt or not. It will just keep doing what it does, which is try to grow.
Today’s El País reports Madrid may not be ready to go to Phase 1 next Monday.
As I took a walk this morning, I reminded myself: Breathe deep. I cannot control this. And then my own coda to that, in my head: este mal bicho, este puto virus — this bad bug, this fucking virus. If I could swear with the elegance of a Spaniard, I would.