Last Monday, we ended our quarantine as it began: with a long walk through Parque del Oeste, the sprawling sloped park that meanders along central Madrid’s western edge.
From Oeste, the Palace and the Cathedral hang on the horizon like a mirage. To the west lies the low furred expanse of the Casa de Campo: former royal hunting grounds, still-battered civil war battleground, crisscrossed by dusty mountain bike trails. The Retiro, Madrid’s main park is all formal manicured elegance, but Oeste, planted in the English style of the 19th century, affects nonchalance. It’s green and picturesque — until it suddenly runs into highway and railroad tracks and isn’t. During the civil war, the northern end Parque del Oeste was part of the battlefield of the Battle of Ciudad Universitaria, when fighting took place among the university buildings. There are still a few machine gun turrets dotted along the northern edge of the park.
When we took that final walk, back in March, an old man stood at the corner with us, coughing mightily as he waited for the light to change. Last Monday, the police were rolling up the yellow tapes that had kept us out of the park.
Next Monday, we move into Phase 2 of the transition to the New Normalcy. Masks will continue to be mandatory whenever it’s not possible to maintain 2 meters of distance. Last week was my first time back inside a store, our first visit with friends, the first cafe con leche on a terrace. Salvador Bachiller, a sort of upscale luggage store, has reusable masks in its window display, as well as small oblong wallets for storing masks when you’re not using them. Most people just push both elastics of their mask over one wrist when they’re running, or in a park where there’s plenty of distance, or at a cafe.
So on the one hand, there’s that, an easing of anxiety. Madrileños are once again drinking tinto de verano at sidewalk tables set further apart than usual.
But then on the other is the grievous, heartbreaking news from home.
We are here — but not here. Not there — but there in our hearts. We pore over the newspapers. Even the landing page of El Pais has, some days, been devoted almost solely to he news from the U.S. Tomorrow, there are gatherings in solidarity all over Spain. Madrid’s will be in front of the US Embassy. There’s already increased security out front.
One of today’s headlines: La UE da la espalda a Trump y quiere cambiar las relaciones con Estados Unidos (The EU turns its back on Trump and wants to change relations with the United States.)