Home alone – a pandemic diary (day eighteen-28.03.20)

Today would have been another perfect spring day, if it weren’t for the fact that this year no one cares if it’s Spring or not. Spring usually means we come out of our homes and enjoy the open air; this year we must stay indoors and wait, wait, wait.

 

Never has time passed so slowly. Tonight, the clocks will move forward one hour, something that we usually welcome even if it means a Sunday with one hour less, but this year nobody remembers, nobody cares. It will make no difference in our lives.

 

Today I went for a long walk with a friend. We walked to the village centre and then followed a path on the cliffs by the sea. It was invigorating. A bit windy, yes, but not too much and the sky was so blue, and the sun shone so bright that it was a pleasure to be outside. How fortunate to be away from the city. There was no one else around but even so, when we met up with two policemen, on horseback, they ordered us to go back. I wonder why, because the legislation in place about the State of Emergency does not forbid people to walk in empty places, but I would not argue with the authorities. They are doing their job as best they can, and we just turned around without further argument.

 

Then I was back home to write; and for a conf call with me editor, who is sharing with me the writing of the first chapters of his book. It’s fascinating. He writes on Google Drive in real time so I can actually follow as he creates, and he has a powerful imagination. When he says “That’s over for today” he leaves me longing for more. The quality of his writing humbles me, but then he masters the English language – as well as Portuguese, incidentally – in a way that I will never achieve, not if I lived a million years.

 

My friend Rosario from Madrid called. Spain is living an unprecedented tragedy. Only yesterday, she tells me, one thousand people died there of coronavirus. One thousand, in one day! Even more than in Italy, where today 919 people died! She sounds so desperate, so without hope. They are really keeping at home; if they go out for any other reason than shopping for food or remedies, they will be fined. I fervently  hope we don’t come to that here. I hope we won’t need to.

 

I follow the numbers in Portugal: so far 100 people have died of the coronavirus and there are more than 5.000 infected. In the beginning of all this I saw an estimate from a mathematician that announced there would be around 1.000 infected by the end of March. We have five times that number and growing.

 

Today another friend called, who works as a lab technician at the Portuguese Oncology Institute in Lisbon. She told me about the highly strict safety measures they have to take inside the hospital. All patients who do not have to be there have been sent home. She is working one week from home, making reports, etc, and one week at the hospital lab. She is anxious about bringing the virus home – her husband and son have not left home in days as she brings whatever is needed, like groceries, on her way back from the hospital; she worries about her elderly parents, who live one hundred kilometres from Lisbon and whom she cannot visit at this time; she tells me her poor mother, well into her eighties, is desperate, as her father, who has Alzheimer’s, does not understand why he cannot go out to the street, so each day puts up a fight because of that.

 

Day 18 of the pandemic, and as with all things bad in our lives, we wish we’d be counting the days until it ends, to give us some hope, something to hold on to – only we don’t know. There are estimates, that we hope will come to pass, but no one really knows.

 

Another day when I am grateful that all my loved ones are still healthy; and pray that tomorrow they will stay the same.

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