Medio Gas*


The morning we left Madrid for Catalunya, it became permissible for the first time in almost a year to go without a mask outdoors. By the time we returned, curfews had just been re-instituted in Barcelona. Spain is in the midst of its fifth Covid wave. This isn’t like the last one; hospitals aren’t saturated. But are we standing on a railroad track, playing chicken with a locomotive lumbering straight for us? Only time will tell — I hope not.

By traveling in July, we — like a good portion of Spain — may have jumped the gun. Traditionally, Madrileños plan their escape from the heat-beleaguered city for August. But this year, travel between provinces wasn’t even allowed until June. Who knows what August may bring? Seize the day is the watchword of summer.

All of which means that the Mediterranean’s a shimmering mirage in the rearview. What’s left?

August in Madrid, when life slows to medio gas (half-throttle) and half the shops are closed. August, when only mad dogs and Englishmen venture out in the midday sun. August, when one’s chief aim is to stay as cool as one can as much as one can; to always choose the shady side of the street; to only wait for streetlights to change in the tiny strip of shadow cast by the light poles. To wear wide-legged flow-y pants or dresses resembling burnooses.

Back home, summer heat was just something one passed through quickly, on the way from air-conditioned house to air-conditioned car to air-conditioned building.

Here, it’s our boon companion. It’s stronger than us. And — who knows? Maybe that’s the way things should be.