Sixty-seven days. They say it only takes 21 days to create a habit so after sixty-seven you’d be surprised to what you can get used to. The plastic barrier separating you from the cashier at the grocery store, the underlying suspicion and fear in everyone’s eyes as they cross the street to avoid you, knowing what six feet of separation looks like, and silently worrying when you’re not able to keep it. Things you never thought would become a part of your life are suddenly commonplace. The sounds of your apartment at any given time of day, for example. Your cats’ hungry cries at 8 am, the quiet whir of the refrigerator, birds chirping in the courtyard–unsure of why they’ve been left alone this spring, the neighbors’ blinds protesting as they’re raised each morning, the resilient applause and music heard from balconies each evening, the monotony of the news programs at midday repeating the same information for the last two months. I’ve come to depend on these sounds, demarcating my day by them.
Over time, the sounds have changed. Moving slowly through the phases of de-escalation, we no longer hear police cars blaring warnings to get off the street, and where the street was once free of traffic, now a steady, albeit scarce, stream of cars and buses pass by on their way to work–to jobs that can’t be done from home. It’s been almost two weeks since we’ve heard footsteps on the roof of neighbors trying to get some semblance of exercise without breaking the law, and mornings are punctuated by the buzz of construction and staccatos of metal on brick, more sounds allowed to proceed in these new phases.
But today I woke to a different sound, one I hadn’t heard in ages, but achingly familiar nonetheless. Thunder. Deep, house-rattling thunder I hadn’t heard since humid summer afternoons spent in Wisconsin. Today it shook my routine and inspired me to write. And as my coffee goes cold, the rain drops slow, and once again, the orchestra of morning sounds begins. The neighbors. The blinds. The birds. One by one, they take their positions. All is as it should be and has been.
Every so often, I think about how things were supposed to be different. I only let these ideas in for a little while, too long spent in their company and they begin to sting like warm sea water.
I let myself think about the couples who won’t get married, the graduations and senior skip days that won’t take place, the trips that were cancelled, the children and teachers struggling to find their way, the birthdays and mother’s days and father’s days celebrated on video platforms, the funerals no one was allowed to attend. I think about the families of three, four, five, trapped together in an apartment not unlike ours, trying to enjoy family time without going crazy in the ninety square meters that is their home. I think about the people doing this alone, who never questioned their independence until it was no longer a choice. I think about the processions of Semana Santa, waiting for their penitents in dusty chapels around the city, and the colorful casetas of Seville’s fairgrounds waiting to be disassembled to piles of metal and sheets of plastic until next spring. The hugs, kisses, hand squeezes, and high fives we all have building up inside of us, threatening to burst out the moment we see our friends and family again. It’s all against our nature. We weren’t built for this.
I let myself think about Enzo. Our baby boy whose name we only just decided a few days ago, foolishly thinking that we would be able to decide it on the beach where we met in Cádiz, like we had planned–the day the state of emergency went into place over two months ago. I think about how my parents were supposed to be here to witness spring in Sevilla, and watch as baby grew bigger and bigger inside of me, hold my belly as he stretched and moved. How we were all supposed to dance in the Feria de Abril, watch my dad stumble on Spanish words, eat greasy tapas in crowded bars, and see Tuscany together–our last trip before baby. I think about my niece who should be kissing my belly in person, instead of through the glass lens of a cell phone. I think about the maternity clothes sent from my cousin which have barely been worn as one day blends into the next in a different pair of pajama pants.
I think about all of these things, but I also think about my husband. And how Enzo has been able to spend so much of every day hearing his dad’s voice–a gift he wouldn’t have had if all had been “normal”. I think about how fortunate we are to have our jobs, that our families and friends have jobs, that we want for nothing (except human interaction) in a time of such uncertainty. I think about the amount of things I’ve been able to do during this time, things I’ve been putting off for longer than I care to admit. Painting the apartment, organizing cupboards, cleaning the windows, baking new recipes, getting the nursery ready, writing in my journal, taking an online class, reading seven books (and counting!), playing card games with my husband, making forts in the living room, writing a poem, making travel videos, watching classic films, laughing at the cats, and enjoying hours in bed with coffee, thunder, and the smell of rain on dry earth. I think about the neighbors whose names I never knew before, but who I now know not only their names, but of the names of the grandchildren they so desperately miss. I think about all of us dancing and clapping on our balconies to Queen at 8 o’clock every night, shaking the anxiety from our fingertips. I wonder, when this is all over, if in fact there will be a part of me that misses the thick viscosity time currently seems to possess. I don’t know anything about motherhood, but I’m told it runs more like sand through open fingers, rather than the ribbon of cold maple syrup it feels like now.
The rain has picked up again and I realize my morning walk won’t happen today. I wonder when I won’t have a timetable for a walk, when I won’t need to suffocate in a mask and plastic gloves to grocery shop, when I won’t need to check the news to be sure I understand the rules to leave the house. I wonder if my husband will be allowed in the room as I give birth, and how I’ll stay calm as I’m forced to wear the mask that suffocates me every day. I wonder if my baby’s things will arrive on time, if my husband’s family will be able to see their new grandson and nephew, if my parents will meet their first grandchild before he is a year old.
I shake these thoughts and turn to what I can control today. I contemplate what house project I should tackle, or if I should resign myself to cleaning up the desktop of my computer. Or maybe the pregnant yoga classes I’ve sworn to do for the last eight months. I have time for all three but realistically I’ll get distracted and only do one or two. There is always tomorrow. So I do what all pregnant women are taught to do. I breathe. I breathe in, then out for twice as long, counting as I go. I stretch my toes to a cold part of the sheets, tensing and relaxing my muscles and prepare to step on to the cool hardwood to start day sixty. Breathe in, breathe out.
I can do this.
We can do this.
Everything is going to be okay.
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