Hasta Pronto to All That

We’re almost the last ones left in the apartment building. Whenever I come back from running last minute errands, the elevator is there in the lobby, right where I left it – nobody else is around to use it. Even La Portera has disappeared, to spend August in her home village, her pueblo. At noon today, the dozy streets of Madrid will perfectly illustrate the principle that only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun. Madrid is a country unto itself, come August.

We’ve been advised to have safety goggles, for our trip to our pueblo, a transatlantic flight away. As well as pens for the forms we’ll sign at entry to Holland, where we change planes, vouching we have no symptoms of COVID*.

No one wants to share pens, these days.

On our return to Madrid once college drop-off has been accomplished, should it be accomplished —the college president just sent an email that the length of the initial student quarantine on campus has gone from 48 hours to 4 days due to “demand for testing from hot spots across the South and in other parts of the country (that) will adversely affect our testing schedule here” — there’ll be an application for a QR code for our phones. I’ve stocked the (tiny) cupboard in the kitchen with non-perishables, for our self-exile in the apartment once we return.

Meanwhile, life goes on. Early this morning, people stood outside the public health center for our barrio, clutching their plastic folders of paperwork, in an appropriately socially-distanced line. A block further on, three taxi drivers stood chatting while they waited for fares. Granted, one wore his mask on his chin not his face, but they all had masks, and they all stood a deliberate four feet apart — and that’s an accomplishment, in a country where people truly enjoy rubbing shoulders. In front of a just-opened café, a mask-clad waitperson slowly wiped down tables with disinfectant.

We keep to routines; we feel our way through things; navigating here and there, before and after, safe harbors and the unknown.

*Who would fly if they had them, or say yes if they did?

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