So much can change in a week. The world can go from hot and dry to cold and wet. You can go from sitting beneath a pergoda at a table of blue-tiled mosaics with a group of fun-loving Spaniards eating steamed mussels with giant wedges of lemon to lying on your couch covered in a blanket, just wanting to be alone.
But it’s impossible to be alone in Carrasqueira. Like so many other places I’ve tried to escape to – the off-the-grid cabin on Haida Gwaii, the thatch cottage on Inis Mor – such a quest has proven futile. People appear with bottles of home-made salal wine or bowls of wild blackberries. I never learn. I try and I try to resist social contact, making up excuses – I don’t feel well. I have to work.
Here, I do things like wait to collect my laundry from the clothesline until I’m sure no one is lingering on the “balcony” above my house (see Lockdown #8). I wait to water the garden until the pre-dinner walk and social hour is over. I go to the beach and do my grocery shopping during the lunch siesta.
But such precautions, especially during summer, never seem to work.
Mercedes has installed a chair for her ailing husband to sit on to get some fresh air, with a bird’s-eye view of my house, of course.
“Your hose is dripping,” she observed the other day, craning her neck beyond the stone wall to peer into the furthest corners of my front patio (a dangerous activity while standing at the top of a 10-foot high precipice). “You had better tell your landlord.”
Another neighbour (80-year-old Josefa) has taken to eating lunch early to avoid the heat. The other day she was waiting for me as I mounted the steps with my new shopping trolly (a life-changing purchase I once thought belonged to the realm of grandmas).
“That’s not how you should pull it,” Josefa said from her kitchen window. She unlocked her front gate, and took over.
Quickly she realized that my trolly was not like her trolly. “It was only 18 Euros, from the Chinese store,” I apologized. “Mine was 44,” she said, “and has four wheels you can adjust to go up the stairs.”
Still, Josefa insisted on pulling my trolly, which contained five kilograms of cat food, several bottles of wine, a jar of pickles – basically all the heaviest items they sell at GADIS that I usually don’t buy – all the way to my front gate to show me how it was done. I thanked her. “Nada,” she said with a wave of her hand, returning to her siesta.
A friend I used to work with at a restaurant in Vancouver who now works as a tarot-card reader predicts we have entered a time of great potential:
“Whatever the next six months hold for you will be aligned to your greatest path,” she writes on her Instagram feed. This will be the ride of your life, she promises.
In certain countries this could mean we have something to look forward to in the bedroom (see #3), but, unfortunately, I’m not from one of those countries.
Instead, my friend’s post got me thinking, again, about the much more boring path of life. Once upon a time, I dreamed this path would lead to that of the lone writer of novels. I’ve made a few life choices to achieve this goal – foregoing children and choosing partners who also want to be alone, but not quite. People who brood, who like things like meditation, crossword puzzles, bonsai cultivation, science fiction.
But maybe this has all been a mistake. Maybe I actually like people, or, at the very least, need them.
After experimenting with saying yes instead of no to invitations to spend time with other humans, I think I may feel happier. I’ve seen a shooting star, stumbled upon a herd of wild horses, posed as a Portuguese maiden, drunk pink gin. Yesterday, I hiked in the pouring rain through a forest of eucalyptus and pine, and, afterwards, ate home-made pizza.
So, thank you other humans. Who knows where our paths lead, or if there is even a path, but your company (most of the time) is very much appreciated.