Who are your people?

When it’s just you and Tolstoy for lunch.

Warning: Don’t start divorce proceedings before a pandemic locks down most of the world. Oh, and maybe think twice about going to what will become one of the hardest-hit countries and getting stuck there, alone, quarantined in a stone house on a hill.

While the rest of the world starts posting couple photos of dressing up like famous paintings, enjoying floor picnics, and engaging in board game tournaments, you will realize you’ve been wearing your panties both inside-out and backwards for the past 24-hours and no one has noticed.

Then, it will hit you. Somewhere in this locked-down world your former husband is probably noticing everything there is to notice about the panties of his new girlfriend. They are probably red, his favourite panty colour, and lacy.

How yesterday began.

If there was ever a time to hold on to the ones we love, this is it.  This is the time to gather with our people by the hearth. But what if your hearth has been snuffed out? What if the ones you usually love send WhatsApp messages asking if you know the whereabouts of your marriage certificate so they can proceed with the divorce paperwork?

Some, like this particular stone-house-on-the-hill dweller, might have a little cry and then indulge in some GADIS therapy. In pre-lockdown times, a Milka caramel bar and roll of rainbow Mentos may have done the trick, but things have changed.

Who are my people?

No sooner have I asked this question, while weighed down by shopping bags on Rúa de Montero Ríos, than it begins to answer itself. I hear voices calling my name. “Hello! Up here!” they call, in English, and I look up. It’s my friend Loli and her four children, students from Atlantic Coast Playgroup, waving from their terrace.

Can I be your people? asks Mean Kitten.

“Do you need an umbrella?” Loli asks, “It’s going to rain.” She asks if I want a face mask. If I need a shopping trolley for my groceries. If I want her to drive my groceries home. No, I say, Don’t worry.

Wait, she says. Wait.

As I make my way up the hill pulling my new trolley, a hand-made face mask printed with colourful owls tucked inside, I think about the other people. My people.

Some are on an island archipelago walking up and down a beach. Some are in an Irish cottage playing Bach on the cello. Some are on a street filled with cherry blossoms doing a juice fast. Some are beside a river drinking Manhattans at five o’clock.

Sometimes your people live far away, down roads like this.

Some are in the suburb where I grew up bringing my parents groceries and pansies.

And then some are even closer, usually just two houses up the hill, but now a world away.

But sometimes, like the other day, two-metre-wide contact happens. Miguel dropped off my Amazon package because, for some reason, no delivery driver can ever find Carrasqueira 99.

Sometimes your people live in a place where the marvellous sumac grows.

And there, nestled among the copper frying pan and French Exit, was The Nun.

Everybody needs a nun in their life. Especially one made out of wax. This particular nun has travelled from the guest room of Miguel’s parents’ house in Zaragoza, where I spent Christmas with them, across the breadth of Spain.

Coronavirus nun.

At first horrified that Miguel’s mother would think I stole the nun from my room, which, I might add, I did not (Miguel did), now I rejoice in this little game we play.

You never know when or where the nun will appear. You might find her under your covers, or buried in a basket of freshly-picked kiwis. She might be lodged in a terra-cotta planter, or standing calmly reading her bible in the pots-and-pans cupboard.

It might be days, or even weeks, but the nun never disappoints. Just when you think you’re alone, she’s there, with crimson lips and yellow rosary beads, never expecting anything but a laugh.

Amazon nun.

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