This is for my English readers. <3 You know who you are,
Thursday, March 12, 2020.
“This was an extensive and magnificent structure, the creation of the prince’s own eccentric yet august taste. A strong and lofty wall girdled it in. This wall had gates of iron. The courtiers, having entered, brought furnaces and massy hammers and welded the bolts.
They resolved to leave means neither of ingress nor egress to the sudden impulses of despair or of frenzy from within. The abbey was amply provisioned. With such precautions, the courtiers might bid defiance to contagion. The external world could take care of itself. In the meantime, it was folly to grieve or to think. The prince had provided all the appliances of pleasure. There were buffoons, there were improvisatori, there were ballet-dancers, there were musicians, there was Beauty, there was wine. All these and security were within. Without was the “Red Death.” The Masque of the Red Death. Edgar Allan Poe.
I send the children to school. Armed with their mini “hand sanitizers”, as if guarded with a protective virus shield, a mix of Cosmopolitan psychology and the “power trip” feeling of having in their possession one of the most sought goods, all while reeking of “Axe”. At home, I follow the news second by second. And, if I try to give them a break, they chase me. Iran, Italy, Spain, devastated. Boris Johnson dismisses the facts. Donald Trump at one point calls it “strong flu” and, ten minutes later, a pandemic, but we are used to him. I try to keep the usual routine: it’s what we need. So soccer practice is still on, but
I have the feeling that it could be the last for a long time.
The business as usual fighting with my kid so he’d put on his shinguards is interrupted by an email from the association that coordinates children’s and youth soccer in this part of California. They announce the suspension of all events that depend on them until MARCH 31, the uppercase is mine. I feel like they’re yelling at us.Wow.
I try to delay the distribution of the information until the end of practice (the boys were already there, they had touched the balls and who knows if they had even greeted each other). I’m just trying to give them a few more minutes of community play.
I walk to the supermarket, just a few feet from the court, known for its exotic fruits and vegetables, and for its luxury organic products. People are shopping as usual. They’re even smiling, and that should give me the first clue that things are not as normal as it seems. Many fill their baskets with grains, cheese, etc. No panic shopping on sight. The smartest ones are buying beer. It’s them who, I have no doubt, know what to stock up on. We can all can count on there being food: we live in “The Land of Plenty”. What will be needed is a psychological supplement to help us deal with what is coming, and that, as far as I know, is not sold in supermarkets. Not even in Berkeley. I take a deep breath and get ready to pay (I’m number 20 in a line of 100 people, so here is my lucky break of the day. Behind me is the principal of one of the district’s schools. She says” hello”, and in a tone that is not necessarily reassuring, advises me to “check my email tonight”.
From now on, that phrase will be the synonym of “we have to talk” regarding academic communications: as in a relationship, you know that things are not quite right, but you prefer to live in denial, and, what is worse, you are sure that in this case the “it’s not you, it’s me”, is totally sincere . I get back to the field, where the parents whisper to each other. Many of them work in the district and only await the ratification of what’s imminent. There is talk of a case – not yet confirmed – at the city’s High School. But there is nothing concrete. Just rumors and 20 degrees of separation. I realize that I am very surprised to find out from the freedom and openness of a soccer field that countries considered much more “disorganized” by this self-proclaimed first world, have already declared entire cities in quarantine and are on the way to mandate a curfew for an entire nation. A boy from Madrid whispers to me that his aunt, a nurse, tells him that there are no beds in the hospital. Oh, “that’s in Spain,” I think.
Trusting that there’s an ocean between us.
I agree with my son’s coach that, as long as there is no an explicit order in place banning small groups of children playing sports, for the mental health of young people and adults, the smarter thing to do will be to keep practices, respecting the basic rules of contact -or lack of- Somehow relieved I get home and, to cancel that momentary oasis, I make the mistake of turning on the TV, wrongfully tuned in CNN (thanks to the primaries of the Democratic party) and I remember: CNN It has the ability to transform any event into “Breaking News”, and any “Breaking News” into a catastrophe. Very late. The evil was already seen.
I check my emails: the school district decides to cancel school, effective immediately for High School and starting the following Monday for the rest of the levels. Questions, even without official answers, come and go. And the unanswered questions are answered by the imagination, and to that nobody is able to put a limit.
You start to put everything in perspective. You wonder how important that science poster that your son had to deliver urgently really was. You wonder if it was worth arguing about the time of that soccer game that maybe now, hopefully, will be played in 2022.
You wonder if you really are with the person with whom you would like to spend four weeks of your life locked up.
And this is only the first day.