I was supposed to work today. But like millions across Spain and around the world, I’ve been laid off indefinitely. Even though my job teaching English at Atlantic Coast Playgroup was just part-time, it formed part of a web of jobs cobbled together to survive as a freelance writer, and the hours were enough to pay my rent.
No one has hard feelings. The staff, who hail from New Zealand, Venezuela, Galicia and the U.S., understand. How can a small business owner such as our boss Patrick (real name Patricius, from the Netherlands) continue to pay our salaries, taxes, social insurance, and rent when students’ parents have already started to cancel? When his annual money-maker, a week-long summer camp, will be cancelled?
While Patrick is trying to move classes online, providing lockdown-style activities such as sprouting avocado pits, making your own play dough, and Zumba workouts, it’s just not enough.
My calendar, filled in during more optimistic times, has been made redundant too. Now I am rather pleased that I made the mistake of ordering that botanical art wall calendar from Amazon España with squares barely big enough to write in. Now I can enjoy rather than curse this month’s large watercolour of Prunus persica.
But I will miss my work colleagues. We were fond of going out for drinks together at Leña Verde, or to O Farol for pizza. They’ve seen me cry, try to salsa dance, sing songs with lyrics such as “Floppy chases a rabbit on a rainy day.”
Other potential jobs that had been offered to me in Canada, reporter jobs with a program called the Local Journalism Initiative, no longer exist. Who wants someone who has been living in Spain to move to their rural town with limited medical facilities right now?
It’s only because of a separation agreement settlement that I’m able to sit here calmly on a sunny afternoon and drink a bottle of Mort Subite – Sudden Death. Not usually a beer fan, I’d bought these for prospective guests. Since none will be coming in the foreseeable future, I’ve cracked one open. To be honest, I’m on my second now because I’ve discovered Mort Subite tastes more like cherries than beer – and who doesn’t like cherries?
The government officially announced Spain’s lockdown will last until April 12th, possibly longer. When I flip the calendar to April next week, my new reality will be staring back at me. Blank squares. Blank days. Day after day after day.
But it’s better not to think that way. Even though I’m angry at my former husband for falling in love with another woman and ___________________ (I promised not to write about him anymore, so I’ll stop there), he did teach me a lot about Buddhism. He taught me about the nature of suffering (especially when I last saw him in Toronto), impermanence (ditto), and how the only reality is the present moment (difficult when you’re prone to obsess about the time you fell in love with an Italian jazz musician in India and got married).
While it has become cliché to talk about “the moment” – and especially about living in it – if I weren’t doing that right now I think I’d be joining Mercedes’ Husband #2 (see Lockdown #8).
Quite simply, it’s a relief to have nothing on the calendar but the moment, or, as Thich Nhat Hanh puts it, “keeping one’s consciousness alive to the present reality.” It’s a relief to stop worrying about what to do with my future as a nearly 50-year-old, unemployed, childless divorcee with limited funds.
Perhaps this lockdown is just a get-out-of-jail-free card for my tattered mind. At this moment, only the sweet yet bitter sips of Mort Subite exist. Sheets flap on the clothesline. Cats sleep in the shade. A seagull caws, flying towards the open sea.