Home alone – a pandemic diary (days nineteen and twenty – 29 and 30.03.20)


DAY nineteen, Sunday

I woke up crying.


In my case, anxiety usually strikes in the morning, when I am awakening, and all sort of thoughts cross my mind. There were times, that seem so distant now, when life was promising, or I was living through a particularly happy phase, and these moments before having to get up were leisurely spent dreaming; rather daydreaming, and looking forward to the day, and weeks, and months ahead. Making plans. For a few months now – since Afonso’s accident – and particularly in the last few weeks, my first feelings as I wake up are anguish, uncertainty, fear. I feel like staying in my cocoon, where I feel safe. Maybe that’s why, when I’m not working, I tend to sleep later than I used to. It seems I don’t want to wake up to reality.


Yesterday I didn’t go out. It was a cloudy day, with the sun coming out at times, but I didn’t really feel like it. Not even for my usual walk. It’s so stressful to go out – change clothes and shoes, disinfect hands and keys and doorknobs, the same ritual as you come back… I just stayed in, cooked myself some nice fish with potatoes, carrots and vegetables, all with our Portuguese olive oil, and I ate heartily. For three months now I have lost my appetite, and I am being told (by the very few people who see me) that I’ve grown thinner. No wonder. Stress has always caused me to lose weight, unlike some people. I’m not sure this is good – at my age, being too thin means, you look older too. The other day my son Afonso was saying I have dark shadows under my eyes.


The boys came for dinner. As usual, we had our initial confrontation regarding hygienic procedures, as they feel I am too stressed. Then they complied and we sat down for a delicious (or so they said) new recipe of chicken thighs and legs in the oven with mayonnaise, mustard, garlic and lemon juice. I had already tried it when I was in Lisbon by myself, but for the boys it was a first. We accompanied it with a  tasty rice and salad. I finally relaxed, as the boys talked about their plans for the future, for what may happen after Covid 19 and – hopefully – our lives will no longer be suspended. It was heart-warming to hear them, optimistic as young people are, trying to live their lives as normally as possible and preparing for their future. Again, I felt a much-needed sense of normality, but as they went away, I was left with myself, my fears and anxieties. I went to bed and dived into the tragic story of Wuthering Heights, that I am rereading after more than forty years. Strange how reading a book in different stages of your life gives you such a different impression. I have always thought it to be the ultimate romantic story, but now I see it more like a tragedy, a tale of love, yes, but even more of spite and revenge.


DAY twenty, Monday

I woke up late. Outside the day was grey, and it was raining softly. I exercised a bit – I badly need it for my neck and arms – and called Miguel about something I can’t really remember, because when he told me Afonso had woken up with a sore throat, I lost all ground. It’s now, I thought, it’s fallen upon us!


I called my doctor who suggested he call the Health 24 line to check if his symptoms mean he has to do the test or not. In fact, I suggested he call our Health insurer number as they have a dedicated line for that too. I panicked. I felt faint. I walked back and forth, I prayed. I felt my heart beat twice as fast. I called Afonso to check if he had called to SOS line. No reply; I called Miguel, the same. Finally, I called Pedro, who calmly told me “Mom, don’t worry, Afonso is okay, he has taken some paracetamol and his throat is no longer sore”. Relief. Afonso comes to the phone and says “Mom, it’s nothing, I feel great, I no longer feel my throat”. I hang up. It’s true that sometimes when I wake up, I feel the same, and then it’s nothing. It happens all the time, they have a sore throat and take some paracetamol and Vitamin C and are well in no time. No stress at all. But now… all the stress in the world is upon us. I try to calm down, but I feel faint.


Today I have to go out to the grocery store – I’m out of fruit and vegetables. I also need to go to the pharmacy, where they now have a closed door with a small rotative window that allows you to pay and to receive the packages. Much safer for the people working there. Since I’m out with the car, I go to the petrol station and fill up. I’ll be going to Lisbon once a week, at least while I can, so it’s better to be prepared.


Back home I have lunch; it’s about 3 o’ clock. No wonder I feel faint. Too many emotions and lack of food. After a cup of coffee, I feel slightly better. And I take the rest of the afternoon to write, after the unending decontamination measures with the things bought at the supermarket. I will spare you the boring details, only saying it’s a complicated procedure that leaves me exhausted. Physically, but mostly mentally.


I’ve just talked to Afonso. He feels great, no sore throat. He has been running – part of his leg’s recovery program. Hopefully this has been just a fright. I hope to God!


Things continue to look very bleak out there. Before, it was admitted we might have the peak of the pandemic by mid-April, now they are talking about the end of May! How we are going to survive these months in this anguish, with more and more people getting infected – I don’t want to think too much about this, about the people I know getting it, about the older and high-risk people that I love… I refuse to think about it, or I will definitely go mad.


I look at the numbers: 140 dead so far and 6.408 cases. Good news won’t come tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow. But I believe it will come. We’ll have to be strong until then.


Today, as I came home from the pharmacy, I decide to drive down to the beach where we use to go in the Summer and found the road blocked – except for residents – and there was a huge poster by the barriers, saying “STAY HOME”.


My eyes filled with tears. I turned around, and obeyed.

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