The Quarantine Blog IV: April 15, 2020

I am now in absolute quarantine, lodged there by my upstairs neighbors. When I told them I thought had had a form of the virus last week they responded by declaring I had to stay inside; they would do my shopping. So here I am on a rainy Barcelona day looking out on the tiled roofs of the Hospital made a richer red by the rain. I feel like a grounded teenager who has been apprehended sliding down a drainpipe to a midnight tryst with a dubious young man.
My experience with what may or may not be the virus might be useful to others, therefore…
Last week I began to feel seriously terrible in that way the flu takes you where you feel that death would be an enormous relief. Something is sucking all your energy leaving you flapping about like a scarecrow’s empty glove. I was not coughing. I had no temperature, indeed, my temperature was subnormal but I felt nauseous and my intestines after breakfast were severely upset, although not at all in the kind of dramatic state I have known them to be in India or Tibet.
I slept and awaited developments. I had the day before received a call from my red button people who keep track of the elderly here. They urged me to call them if I felt unwell while saying in the same breath that all hospitals were on overload.
The next day I felt slightly better but not much and nausea was still lurking slyly. However, I did not feel worse and that seemed to me the important factor. I slept more and I decided to wait another day.
On the third day I felt better although tired and unenthusiastic about life. As time goes on I am a little more enthusiastic.
I wrote in a previous blog about housework and forgot an area of that activity, ironing. I find ironing a contemplative occupation but in one aspect I am totally defeated. I cannot fold a fitted sheet. Every house cleaner I have ever employed has been able to do this, has demonstrated it to me, and still I cannot do it. Even the man from Chile who worked for me for almost ten years in New York, and was divorced by his wife because he was faithful and didn’t beat her, could fold a fitted sheet. But I cannot. I will try again on Thursday when I do the ironing but I know defeat awaits me. It did, abysmal defeat.
Shopping has taken on the aura of adventure in this time. It feels like a slightly illicit activity. I go out with my bag as I might otherwise go with luggage to some exotic clime, Madagascar or the Seychelles. My supermarket has never been so crowded that I have had to stand outside of it. Although the shelves are a little sparse, they have never been so clean. I find that pleasing. However, I have had to wait for as long as twenty minutes at my local Veritas. Most of us, six feet apart, took this fairly easily but there was one young woman who needed to get in there NOW. It was like watching a racehorse trying to break out early.
I also notice that people often seem to be in a controlled state of rage and are not nice to each other. As I was walking along my almost entirely empty street one afternoon, a woman, coming up from behind me, thrust herself violently between the buildings and me. There was no reason to do that. She was wearing what looked like either nurse’s or pharmacy clothes. Fear usually manifests itself as anger. I could understand that she might be fearful in either of those professions.
We are all afraid. I find, for instance, I am annoyed at my butcher for not wearing a mask. That’s my meat he’s breathing on. At my vegetable stand in the Boqueria I am sometimes passed over and have to assert myself to pay.
One day the man, not the usual one at the stand’s cash register, passed over me with a brusque nod when I told him I had everything. I was impressed when the woman he chose to wait on, in mask and gloves, a careful meter away from everyone, told him I was next on line. I was grateful because in this time it takes certain courage to do what she did. I find one of the results of lockdown is people tend to just fall in line; they go limp and passive. There is little effort to push against things.
Going to my cheese counter on the other hand is like a reunion with an old friend. The proprietor and I greet each other effusively. I ask about his mother—she’s younger than I am, in her seventies—about his wife and daughter. He wants to know how I am before we get down to the intense decisions about Brie, Stilton and Gorgonzola with truffles.
I went to a pharmacy on the Rambla for masks. It was the first time I had been on that broad and beautiful avenue since we shut down. The trees were budding in pale green overhead but there were no more than four of us in sight. Farmacia signs were blinking, tabacs were open but people were absent from the picture. It was surreal. Who was the Italian painter who portrayed architecturally elegant town centers that look as though they have been hit by the hydrogen bomb erasing all humans? It had the eerie quality of those endless corridors in LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD. My grandson tells me that he runs utterly alone through Columbus Circle.
But now I am deprived of even the entertainment of shopping. My house is beginning to be as clean as the supermarket’s shelves. I move between three forms of reading, 1) The TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT over lunch, 2) a mystery by Michael Innes or a P.G. Wodehouse novel, 3) a fairly serious historical work, usually out of date because either it was inherited or has been on my shelves waiting for me for years.
Next week I shall be able to do my own shopping again. I am still waiting for the swifts to arrive.

6 thoughts on “The Quarantine Blog IV: April 15, 2020

  1. Lovely Karen, Thank you!


    Enviado desde mi iPhone

    > El 17 abr 2020, a las 13:10, Karen Swenson escribió: > >  >


  2. Thanks for the interesting blog, reminding us of the nice places around your neighborhood Karen…..(Ironing clothes and sheets can be very therapeutic)
    One Barcelona website mentioned the “Soviet-style lines outside the supermarkets”…….


  3. Well, we can look at this as yet another opportunity to be candidates as writers for Good Housekeeping. Actually I am envious: I can neither iron nor fold fitted sheets. On the other hand, I am making a stab at down-home cooking. In fact, I have a wonderful selection of cookbooks from days of yore (guess how that came about). I love the fact that the recipes are not chlorestorally correct. My granny would be proud.

    BTW, you have rather eclectic quarantine reading choices. Besides getting bogged down by the news from parts near and far, I am reading an autobiography of an African migrant’s courageous journey to Europe, a book on neurocoaching and finally my total escapism via John LeCarre’s Cold War machinations


  4. You will be blessed for your kindness to the small animal but remember:
    Mood-altering drugs are not good for anyone, animal or human!
    You saw the result to your eye area.


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