Saturday, March 28, 2020
I needed to walk. My apartment is the definition of "smallness" in a bachelor's pad and there is no yard to speak of to do a bit of exercise, just the teeming wildness of Aldecoa Drive immediately beyond what makes up for a gate in my part of the Quiamco/Rosales compound where I live in Tubod.
I am the very definition, too, of social distancing quarantine: I live alone, and in the past two days or so, the days and the hours have all mixed up together in a kind of space-time goo, a heaviness in the air you could feel with the tiniest brush of skin. I don't truly mind the solitariness -- my introversion revels in this. What I minded was the suffocation to movement. I needed to walk, to stretch my legs which were now slowly giving way to entropy.
And so I did, with some inchoate plan to buy bread downtown. [The shrews in my apartment hijacked my last batch.] The walk along Hibbard Avenue was unremarkable, just the occasional sight of motorcycles and tricycles -- the drivers all wearing masks -- which made up a traffic devoid of the usual Dumaguetnon carefreeness. I saw a couple brisk-walking. Silliman campus was quiet, slowly drowning in acacia leaves.
The beginning of downtown at the juncture of Perdices Street and Silliman Avenue pulsed with the barest signatures of life, and this was only 5:30 in the afternoon. I cannot use the term "ghost town" however: it didn't feel that way, no deadness or ghostliness, more like a town in stark hibernation, or a convalescing patient sleeping away a fever.
I supposed that only the shops deemed "essential" were open. The 7-11 at Portal East was curiously in darkness -- wasn't that essential? The Gold Label Bakery was open, essential. Jollibee and Chowking were open -- essential, I guess -- and so was Dunkin Donuts, but not the downtown McDonald's. Lee Super Plaza's grocery, where I had planned to buy bread, was already close, but not Robinson's. There were too many people inside, and so I pushed on, sampling along the way the shuttered shops and the growing darkness of the early evening, and here and there the surprising clusters of light and activity.
There were so many fruit stands, almost in every corner. And Unitop was curiously alive.
I pushed on, finding myself in the middle of the tiled plaza of Quezon Park, drinking in the waning light of the summer afternoon, all in a whirlpool of melancholy.
I pushed on, finding myself finally in an old haunt I have not seen in weeks. Qyosko was still open, although deserted. I went in, happy at the familiar faces, happy with the lights. I had no appetite, but I ordered buttered garlic chicken to go -- just for the sake of old times. I ordered my usual calamansi juice, too, and my taste buds perked up at the familiar but now strange taste.
I stayed awhile, my laptop on, perhaps to lure myself into the illusion that everything was all right in the world, that I was here just like the good old days.
But curfew soon beckoned. And I am back home again, in the quarantine that has become the norm, knowing that that walk will be a rarity to cherish, knowing there is no going back to normal after all these.
We have all been changed by the coronavirus, I think -- our old sustaining comforts depleted, our beliefs in the resoluteness of authority shattered, our reckoning that things we once considered important somehow no longer cast the same gravity. Some day I'll take this walk again when there will be better days, but I don't think I will see everything again in the old way. The new way will be scarred with melancholy -- that all things we love can so easily be taken away in the blink of an eye. But perhaps that's the only way to live from now on.
Labels: coronavirus, life
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