En Plein Air

How long had we been looking forward to May 4th, the day of the lockdown ease in Italy? Two months. A long time indeed. What shall I remember most of this period? The singing on the balcony every evening at 6.00pm right after watching the daily bulletin of Covid-19 victims or the frightening number on my scale as the result the absurd amount of food I have swallowed in these months, mostly carbs – and I can distictly see them all deposited right here 😱- ? Now that I am thinking about it, I have to say that my time has been spent in the company of screens mostly, whether it was that for smart working/on line lessons or the tv screen. I have watched the 200 and more episodes of “How I  met your mother” (brilliant), four seasons of “How to get away with murder” (super), “Unorthodox”(great), 3 seasons of Versailles (legendary, oops this is the Barney in me speaking) and there must be something I am missing for sure. For the first time in my life I have showed no interest at all for clothes or shoes, as I have been wearing mostly the same stuff, actually, I look rather shabby, I dare say.

My husband Mr Run has suffered these lazy days much more than me. He is an active sort of man, who is used to running 70 km per week at least and driving 100 to go to work and back every day. His very last purchase the day right before the lockdown had been another shining pair of running shoes, the same pair he decided to wear the morning of May 4th. It was 6.30 a.m. . “I am off to run to the pinewood” he whispered to me, as I was was still slumbering. “Let’s hope he comes back with a good provision of endorphines” I thought, and I went back to sleep.

The latest ordinance had set runners free, but what about non-runners like me? Well, all the other people were left with a dilemma to solve before attempting to quit home:  what does “congiunti” mean? We were allowed to go to the supermarket, like before, but now the exciting news was that we could also pay a visit to our “congiunti” . What a peculiar choice of word, we all thought!  “Congiunti”! The English word “relatives” could be the equivalent translation, but it not exactly so, as if they had actually meant “relatives”, they would have chosen a more clear word for the Italian speaking world as “parenti”. We instictively understood that they had employed the word “congiunti” as a limititation to the number of “parenti”/relatives one may have, as if they meant close relatives only. But how close? After having looked up into many dictionaries and followed learned debates, I haven’t actually understood what makes you downgrade from the status of “congiunto” to that of a simple “parente”, but all I needed to know was that in case somebody had stopped me, “congiunto” should have been the most advisable term to use.

Once “en plein air”, the world around me is not exactly as friendly as I expected. You feel the presence of the unseen enemy and like me anybody else. First of all I notice that we are all wearing far too heavy clothes for the season. It is full spring and quite warm, “we have missed the best part of it” I think with a certain disappointment. Behind their masks I barely recognize the people I know. Everybody casts suspicious glances, all distanced, all distressed, watching their backs if someone gets too close and ready to “bark” in case they really do. With the majority of shops closed, even if we were allowed, strolling around is not that tempting. There is no sign of joy around me and I feel a kind of uncomfortable. I realize that my pace is getting faster than usual among the shelves of the supermarket. It is as if I felt the urge of doing quickly my errands and…..going home.  It may sound strange, but this is what I truly wished that coveted 4th of May: going back home, where I feel at ease, where I feel protected.

Once safely on my couch, where I can confess to have spent half of this couple of months, I couldn’t help but wonder how this quarantine had turned me into something T.S. Eliot would call: a “dull root”. Our longed freedom has actually a bitter taste. It is more frightening rather than exciting and despite the call to life represented by this beautiful May ( April in the poem), most of us prefer to remain rooted at home. “Ain’t you going to run this morning, love ?” No” Mr Run grunts,” not today ” and turns his back. He doesn’t want to admit it, but he has become a “dull root” too.