The first morning, I wake up to the sound of the rain. It’s louder than any human imprint, be it footsteps or motors. The birds are still singing, because talkers will always talk. I’m grateful for their company: it makes the beginning of quarantine less apocalyptic.
When I pull up the blinds, and look out over the balcony, there are amply-spaced figures, holding black umbrellas, on one of a handful of designated missions: work, acquisition of food or medicine, caring for the vulnerable, or taking out the bins. I’ve been saving my own food trail for about 4.30pm, so that it’s not over too quickly, so I don’t run into the panic buyers, because I like the buttery texture of the light. It’s weird to have to choose between one time of day and another. I imagine that my favourite hour – sunset-into-twilight – will have to be sacrificed, for the sake of getting enough Vitamin D, especially as the days get longer, and the 8 pm supermarket curfew takes place in broad daylight. Will it come to that? Most people predict that the current regime will last more than the anticipated two weeks – that it could go for months, even. My morning beauty routine doesn’t account for any of these changes: I’m still putting on sunscreen first thing, even though I’m not sure I have to.
Though I look forward to my outings, and make sure I buy in comically small amounts, so that I’ll have an excuse to go again tomorrow, I don’t exactly enjoy them. They are not meant to be fun, anyway. For one thing, the police have sectioned off not only the beaches, but any part of the promenade that’s purely recreational and couldn’t double up as a route to a primary convenience. Still, yesterday when I was walking on one of those double-purpose roads, there was a strong smell of weed – and given that all I could see in front of me was a police car, the smoker must have been in hiding.
But the most striking thing, in this city of couples and cuadrillas (gangs of 5+), is the solitude of those who walk the streets. Only one person is allowed to walk the dog; enter a shop at a time, and once inside, people must be at least a metre apart. Things which I took for granted, only as long ago as Friday – such as walking down the street, hand in hand with my boyfriend – would now be viewed as germy and suspicious. It’s surreal; at this stage, I’m too overwhelmed by the novelty of it all, to be despairing.
At home, in the nine waking hours before my outing, and the six after, I have no shortage of things to do. There’s the arm-length document of projects, while I wait for my next piece of work to come in, the Spanish grammar I need to consolidate, the limbering stretching sessions I force on myself, every few hours, and my flat, which being white and small, always makes cleaning for me. Also, a friend and my dad, want to add another item to my list: that I figure out how to use my mobile to get internet on my laptop, so I don’t have to do everything on this tiny phone. I’ve told them I will, when I can’t get away with it any more – as if I need more homework! As with before quarantine, I fail to check off all the items on my daily to-do-list, and feel the same anxiety about my lack of productivity/super-humanness. Then I berate myself for focusing on these tiny, selfish things; remind myself that they’re nothing in the face of this global health epidemic, the people suffocating to death. I know that in the grand scheme of things, it wouldn’t matter if I stayed in bed for a while, watching self-isolation memes. It’s just that I can’t allow myself to – in a situation which is completely out of my control, my mind latches onto the things it can shape and invent. It insists on shaping and inventing.
This is the first in a series of posts about being quarantined in the beautiful city of San Sebastián! I did have a life before this, as my previous posts will testify. Incase you’re interested, the above pic is from a Starbucks mural, at a time when I had free movement.