My cheeks are puffy; my eyes are the eyes of over-fed goldfish.

The Pyrénées are snow-capped, even close to here. Between the peaks and the forbidden beach are turquoise hills and lilac afternoon skies. I’m taken back to December, our backdrop of the High Atlas, engulfing the main routes in and out of Marrakech.

Now, for no great reason, I’m frustrated. At times, teary too. I’ve no personal reason to feel this way. I’m lucky, I keep on telling myself. Here I am, in a safe place, in a safe town, with my partner. All my family are safe (for now). But my Dad has just phoned me to tell me he has a temperature. He has his daily frustrations, shut off as he is. He’s barely able to get anything to work. My mind races…

And there’s so much shaming taking place

“Why is that person saying that?” “Why can’t you all just stop talking about Covid-19?” “Those people shouldn’t sunbathe!” “That woman who went to the park to take photos to shame other people sunbathing is the one who should be ashamed.”

It’s tiring. It’s so damn censorious. Can’t we all just be whomever we need to be?

Earlier, I came across a woman lying on a bench outside the crematorium. She had fingernails painted in scarlet. When I returned from my sanctioned jog, she was asking the man always stooped and standing outside Lidl whether he had any food. Another man passed me and told me sport was ‘forbidden’, only to join the throng. Strange.

In any case, the police were quite okay with my jog and waved me along: “C’est bonne pour moi“. It made me wonder what feminine noun he was referring to that meant his adjective for the word ‘good’ ended up with an additional ‘n’ and a closing ‘e’. Is the French word for ‘jog’ feminine? If so, when I run on the same route – as far as the Catalan road-sign for Cotlliure – I’ll make sure to dress rather more elegantly.

But what does it matter? My cheeks are puffy, my eyes are the eyes of over-fed goldfish. I’m overweight again. I feel ridiculously unattractive and want to enjoy my pasta and pesto, plus the the shavings of parmesan without a resulting penalty.

I’m also taken back to Barcelona, which feels distant in time if not geography.

There were old women with silver hair. Joining their friends at the fresh orange juice counter opposite Mercat de l’Abaceria, trolley bags in hand. There was the old woman who served them, dressed in a white tunic and leggings, and with a creased copy of Vanguardia. It would feel like 10am, late-starter that I was, but it was 12.59pm and they’d all welcome the weekend with a cold Estrella beer. I’d see a small face pop up by the bar on Carrer de Puigmarti. Although I couldn’t see whether she was eating, her twitching hamster cheeks suggested she was – something tasty.

Further downtown, we were all perfectly happy to sit in close proximity. A groomed woman in late middle-age spoons her chocolate marquis as if its a bowl of soup. She could be Margaret Thatcher’s younger Catalan cousin. She peers at her mobile phone and positions it further away to try and decipher something; perhaps she’s looking at a baby, or come to think about it, a shark.

For weeks I had blocked ears. I felt like I was in a swimming pool and had just lifted my head above the water. The sounds people made – their precise words and utterances – were refracted. My ears were the sponge that washes them clear of any meaning or significance.

And now I find myself washing dishes. Pesto rinsed (how terribly middle-class), I look out our kitchen window, up at those peaks that separate me from our next destination. Wherever that will be.


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