A fresh loaf of bread is considered an essential item in Spain, so today I went to Panadería Amador to buy a baguette. On the way there, two Guardia Civil patrol cars passed. I kept my head down, despite the glory of the 20-plus degree temperatures and the sparkly sea. In front of Gadis, a line-up snaked around the corner and down the block. People were spaced a metre apart. It was the same, I would soon learn, at the two other grocery stores.
The usually bustling Amador, a bakery with a café in the back, was dark and quiet. Only one person could enter at a time. The two employees wore face masks and blue surgical gloves. A sign said to place your money on the counter. Just a few days ago, a man standing in front of me had been entertaining all of the customers, saying how the lockdown would be a chance for everyone to stay home and make love all day long. He couldn’t wait, he said. Everyone laughed, as they ordered tuna empanadas and peasant loaves and tarts topped with glazed strawberries.
Back outside in the sunshine, I tried to enjoy the walk home. But how could I? Even though the baguette sticking out of the cloth bag on my shoulder was all the proof I needed that I was on a mission, I knew my outing was a farce. I rarely bought baguettes – I could never finish the entire thing and always put half in the freezer, thinking I’d make stuffing someday.
Today there was a feeling in the air that attitudes had shifted in Spain. The coronavirus was something to be fought now, and something to be fought together. Everyone had to be on board, everyone had to play their part. The country’s politicians used words such as “cooperation” and “solidarity,” over and over again. This morning the Prime Minister said, “Sometimes we confuse who our enemy is. Ours is a virus, to which we need to respond forcefully.” Yesterday, another leader ( of a leftist party) said, ““We are waging a war against the coronavirus.”
Even though I’m not a Spanish citizen, feigning the need for a baguette just to stretch my legs and admire the camellias in the town square felt mildly treasonous. Each step reinforced this. I stopped less and less, finally making it up the hill to my wrought-iron gate. I stood there for a few moments, looking out through the bars.