Meanwhile In Italy
Updated: Mar 20, 2020
Living under Pandemic law
"Please stay indoors. Only go out for work and other emergencies. If you think you have been infected, contact emergency services. Quarantine yourself for 14 days.
Please stay indoors. Only go out for work and other emergencies. If you think you have been infected, contact emergency services. Quarantine yourself for 14 days."
Blares from a van driving down a nearly abandoned road lined by Cold War-era apartment buildings. We walk home carrying bags of groceries. Is there a word for the uncanny feeling of remembering a memory that isn’t yours?
Afraid their towns would be put under lockdown, residents fled the Lombardy region, headed South.
Monday morning, a train screams by as we pass the tracks, a thought bypasses my brain and hits my gut, “They’re evacuating the north.” I realized after a second thought this is unlikely. My second thought was right. In fact, it had been announced that the lockdown in the North was not mandatory, only strongly advised.
Life here gathers in the bars of cafés and doors of local shops. Friends gather in this way with the comfort of a standing engagement. Today, some are donned in latex gloves and dust masks. Not in a way that will be practical or particularly useful, but a barrier, convincing the mind this will prevent the spread of the virus. Everyone is jovial despite the conditions. Luigi’s nose pokes through the hole he has cut his mask. He backs away with a smile as his friends mock giving him a kiss on each cheek.
On Tuesday, families, couples, and friends enjoy the sun on the beach. It's a warm day with a cool breeze. Kids are out of school and there's a snow-day feeling. Newsfeeds and chatter leave us with skin-tingling excitement. We all know something’s coming, but this is the fun part.
Wednesday afternoon, as we leave our apartment, someone approaches us. “If you go to town, you need this form,” he says in a mix of Italian and English. He makes a gesture as if his hands are being handcuffed, “You understand?” We stop for a pastry on the way to town. Cafés here usually remain open to 11pm, but by government directive they now close at 6pm. It’s almost closing time. Employees wear facemasks and gloves, each giving the other as much space as they can in the small area behind the bar. We aren’t allowed to sit or take a coffee because the café has been disinfected. With instinctive courtesy we swivel away when our pastries and water are places in front of us at the bar.
In town, while the streets are mostly empty, small groups of friends exchange the latest news, sure to leave distance between them. Employees in a clothing store fold stacks of shirts in a shop empty of customers.
The grocery store feels more normal. The produce guy jokes with us about having to wear a mask. We walk home carrying bags of groceries. A van passes, loudspeaker blaring:
"Please stay indoors. Only go out for work and other emergencies. If you think you have been infected, contact emergency services. Quarantine yourself for 14 days."
Thursday, all non-essential shops are closed. Cafés and retail shops are lifeless and dark. Three men selling propane tanks rest lazily near their truck. Some have taken advantage of their time off of work to repair holes in their fences. The occasional police car passes with barely a glance at each of us. We all give each other increasing amounts of personal space. Some grocery stores limit the number of customers allowed in at a time. The produce guy today is less upbeat, his mask worn out and flattened.
It’s Friday and we’re encouraged to only go out alone, no couples, no families. We have run out of propane for cooking, but delivery services have been kept open for this reason. I thought it would be quieter, fewer cars on the streets and less idle chatter. But the town is livelier than yesterday. People bike around and walk as if to say, “We can’t stay inside today.” We have been advised to keep our windows and shutters closed tonight between 10pm and midnight because the town will be disinfected. It’s clear that things are not normal, but we continue on with our lives.
Lockdown will continue until April 3rd.
The town is yellow in the day. We’re kept inside but life continues. The kids in the apartment above us play and run around. Their grandmother vacuums and shouts in the hall. Laundry hangs under a sunny sky, birds chirp unaware of how quiet we have become. The monotony of day-to-day life continues. We still eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We sweep the living room that is always surprisingly dirty. Another fly came through the open window this morning so we have to deal with that.
Tutto andrà bene. Everything will be okay.