Neither here, nor there

The danger still lurks… use well the mask. (Don’t wear it as a scarf.)

The last thing we did outside of our neighborhood prior to lockdown was apply for our new residency cards. After three months, the office that issues them is finally open again, so this morning, we went to pick them up.

The gestora who had shepherded us through the bureaucracy met us on the sidewalk out front of the office in case we had problems. Her immediate family was fine, she told us, but her husband’s work partner had a fever one day in March. A week later, he was dead. He was 56, a year older than I am.

When we walked one at a time into the office, a guard asked us to sanitize our hands immediately. In the waiting area, every other chair had a sign taped to it so that no one would sit in it. The worker who handed me my card wore not only a mask but a homemade face screen made from a plastic folder.

Once we had our cards in hand, officially residents of Spain once more (our old cards had expired during quarantine), we walked home, past stores where the first thing you do when you walk in is slather your hands with sanitizer; past cafes each with their own bottle of sanitizer on each sidewalk table. (Buying stock in a hand-sanitizer company might have been a good investment, pre-COVID). Every plate-glass window is plastered with COVID related signage; every advertisement is about safety, security, home, the family. Every tailor in Madrid has turned their hands to making fabric masks. The nail salons have all been rigged with sneeze guards between manicurist and client.

Here, there’s no forgetting about COVID, it’s already woven into daily life. How it is at home? I wondered when we passed yet another store window with yet another poster reminding us that masks are obligatory. Because there, of course, they aren’t mandatory, and there are bigger pressing worries.

Every day I read at least three US newspapers. I scour Facebook. It’s a very strange feeling, to realize that I have no idea what it’s like there.