Signs of the Times

“Customize your masks.”

This morning, I was getting ready to head out to exercise when I remembered that starting today, I can go out whenever I want, not just between 6 and 10. This felt so strange that I celebrated by spending an extra hour over my coffee, reading the news. I felt guilty about it, as if reading the daily news were as pleasurable as eating bon-bons (which it isn’t) — but then again, how many times will I go from Fase 1 to Fase 2?

Never again, hopefully. Why not mark it?

When Older Daughter and I finally went out, some stores were open, but honestly, a lot of them weren’t. The streets felt emptier than they had, pre-COVID, but then again, maybe we don’t really remember what life was like, pre-COVID.

We had a destination, which turned out to be closed. I found myself stopping to study the contents of the shop windows we passed. So, it seemed, was everybody else — I’ve never seen so much window shopping.

When we found an open cafe, we went inside. It felt strange. The customers at the other occupied table, a mother with toddler and a friend, were speaking English, and the mother was reminding her friend that the toddler hadn’t been able to leave their apartment for over seven weeks.

Seven weeks is a long time. The calendar page taped to the café wall said it was June. How did we get here? A group of young women came in, tentatively, as if they’d forgotten just how to come into a cafe.

When we left, we saw an elderly woman taking her morning paseo, caregiver walking slowly beside her, guiding her by the elbow. She was decked out as only elderly Spanish women deck themselves out: black velvet pantsuit, white hair immaculately styled.

And her cane — her cane was leopard-printed! At the sight I knew Madrid was really back to normal.