Here in Spain, they like to start counting from zero. So we’re currently in Phase Zero of emergence from lockdown, which means that trips to the beach are permitted first and last thing, and visits to the hairdresser are allowed at any time, as long as you wear a mask and agree to have the soles of your shoes sprayed with disinfectant.
After a month and a half of complete lockdown, it’s astonishing to step out of my door and see a conveyor belt of human motion. Masked and bare-faced, Donostiarras are taking up their right to go somewhere that isn’t the bins or grocery store; to cycle, run, and congregate, albeit discreetly.
Since May 2nd, when lockdown was lifted, I’ve been for four swims and counting. The beaches appear different after almost two months’ absence. New rocks have emerged on Zurriola, and green seaweed has grown long and silky over them. The Cantabrian sea in May is cold, but not as bone numbing as it was in March, and I soak it up like a sponge. Then, there’s the night, which is warm, and full of the sound of the waves. I’d not seen the night since March 14th and walking freely in it, makes me feel like a teenager who is just getting to know its possibilities. Even the eleven o’clock curfew that’s currently in place, adds an adolescent appeal.
You could get drunk on the freedom, half-kid yourself that things have gone back to the way they were before. But only half. The boyfriend and I got told off by a policeman each for sitting on the ledge of a stone bridge and leaning against iron railings. The virus travels through metal, didn’t we know? We did, but in that moment we forgot. We’re also not supposed to touch the sand with any part of our bodies other than the soles of our feet. Sitting and lounging on the beach are not yet permitted because there are no conclusive studies about coronavirus transmission through sand.
We’re all aware that a resurgence of the virus is a possibility, and by the end of the weekend, we’ll know how Phase Zero has affected the rate of contagion. My fear of it all being taken away, has led me to organise my days around going out in the morning and evening. Which is a challenge, because whereas at the beginning of lockdown the empty hours mounted, by the end there almost wasn’t a spare moment. I was able to plan and fill whole days without venturing beyond my flat. So this new commitment to going out, is a bit overwhelming, along with the early summer. Boris Johnson’s baby wasn’t the only premature summer fruit, because as of last week, grocery stalls were filled cherries and peaches. These stone fruits, normally associated with the month of June, are my favourites, but I was almost sad to see them so soon. Their early appearance confirms that I’ve missed Spring, the season that ought to most naturally follow a state of hibernation.
Next week, if all goes to plan, Phase One gets underway; clothes stores will open, and groups of up to ten will be able to congregate on terraces. I have to say, I’m not ready for all of that. Not only due to a fear of contagion, but because I’d like to open up my life in a slower, more organic manner. I don’t want to rush to embrace everything that was, but to cherry pick and savour my experiences. I want to retain the license that lockdown gave me to have unproductive time to myself; to not have my inner peace shattered by a sense of social duty and fear of missing out.
This is the latest of a series of posts on my lockdown experience in San Sebastián, Spain. Don’t touch any metal, if you can help it.