I woke up this morning knowing something was wrong but couldn’t remember what. Do you ever have that feeling? And then I remembered. Another day of what’s virtually a form of house arrest awaited.: Day 3 of Spain’s nation-wide lockdown.
Today I varied my one and only outing that I could justify – the food run. There are three supermarkets in town: Gadis, Froiz and Eroski. I waited until after two o’clock, the official Spanish siesta (I wondered if people were still taking naps – and, if so, what were they taking a nap from? Napping?), when the streets would be quieter. Today I went to Froiz. Yesterday, Gadis. I also snuck in an ATM run, which allows an additional five minute walk through the town’s main plaza.
People I’d never seen on their balconies before were on their balconies today. One 20-something guy leaned over the railing with a bottle of beer in hand blasting Spanish pop music. Another two men yelled across their rooftop terraces at one another. In the ochre-coloured apartment on the corner, two women sat in patio chairs talking on their mobiles. In front of all of them, the Atlantic sparkled in the sunshine, the wisteria bloomed, the palms swayed in a light, warm breeze.
Today the Guardia Civil, a military force who double as police, patrolled the streets, driving slowly alongside the boardwalk. As the boardwalk is how I usually get from A to B, I worried they might not know this. I clutched my reusable shopping bags and walked with purpose rather than admire the turquoise hue of the water, the solitary white boat bobbing near the pier.
While at Froiz I discovered I really needed to buy some corn tortillas and a new flavour of Greek yogurt – Stracciatella. This was it, I kept thinking, the most exciting outing of my day. I examined all the types of deodorant, then a whole section called “colonias” – colognes. I realized how fond the Spanish were of fabric softener, selling it by the litre, and in an incredible variety of scents: fresh hay, gold (yes, the precious metal) and orchid, white tea and peony.
I knew I was taking too long, but this was it. I tried to make eye contact with fellow shoppers but no luck. Perhaps they were living in quarantine with their extended family and this outing was a break for them, not a chance to see fellow humans. The cashier wore a face mask and didn’t bother with pleasantries.
Back on the street, in the glorious sunshine, in air laced with scents of spring, the Guardia Civil car slowed down. The two officers looked towards the elderly woman I’d seen earlier, on my ATM run, lingering in front of a shoe store. She wore all black. “Hola!” I’d called out to her, and she’d replied with a smile. Now she stood in front of the community centre, reading the current events announcements. The Guardia Civil pulled into one of the many empty parking spots. Go home, they told her. Go home.