Madrid: After this storm there will be a blue sky

While under quarantine in Madrid, Alejandra is confronted with bad news - and there isn't much she can do. But instead of feeling powerless, she regains some hope when she comes across a poem: "We will come out of this together, side by side."

A friend called, he thinks he has the virus. He is a bit scared. He went to the hospital, but they couldn't help him. Even though he had all the symptoms, apparently there were no tests available. He was just told to go home. Our hypothesis is that they saw that he was young and ‘strong’, and therefore assumed he probably had the virus but will recover by himself. Maybe they are prioritising older sick people and reserving the tests for them… Who knows. Either way we think of it, the result was the same. He was stuck at home, alone, and feeling horrible. As a friend, the feeling is contagious when we are in the same city, but I cannot do anything more than send virtual support.

'My friend was stuck at home, feeling horrible. The feeling is contagious when we are in the same city, but I cannot do anything more than send virtual support'

With some weight on my shoulders I get out of my room, and find my flatmate anxious as well, telling me about the latest news and that the numbers keep skyrocketing. She is frustrated because she’s trying to contact the Ministry of Education to find out about the status of a procedure she has pending. Evidently, the Ministry is unreachable. There are no communication channels with government agencies, and priorities have shifted, all towards virus-related management issues. The rest of the issues with the government have to wait. I realised I had already unconsciously assumed that, when I lost hope of receiving my TIE (Foreigner's Identity card in Spain) within the next few months. Any non-virus-related procedure with the government is frozen at this moment.

Photo by Alejandra Rivera

Being received with more anxiety in the living room, and seeing the blue sky outside the window, I go out ‘for some groceries'. I get out of my building and I am happy I see my neighbour walking her dog. We greet from a distance. I ask the now meaningful and truthful personal inquiry: “How are you?”. I can tell from her face she is not doing well. She seemed glad I asked, as if I gave her permission to discharge her hardship. Her husband had been diagnosed with cancer a few days before.

Now all hospitals and all departments within hospitals, even oncology, have been adapted and are being used to treat people with Coronavirus. Just like with public institutions, where any non-virus-related issue is put aside, it seems even with health issues as serious as this one, they are being relegated to a second place. It is uncertain what will happen to him. He is hospitalised, but it seems in a restricted area. She has no information, she cannot even see him. It is an awful situation for her and their two kids. I told her to stay hopeful, perhaps they have him in a restricted area precisely to protect him. She is obviously worried he is precisely in a place with thousands of infected people surrounding his immunosuppressed and weak system.

I take a deep breath and try to focus on the deep dark blue zenith right above me. I keep walking. Keep thinking... Walking… Observing… thanking God and life that I remain standing in an immensely fortunate situation. I am thankful that despite the many difficulties and challenges I currently face, they are nothing compared to those of others. I am healthy, I feel happy I can breathe with ease these days. My body temperature is normal, and I don’t cough. I can walk and enjoy the sun on my face and that intense blue sky. These days it is easier to feel gratitude just for being alive. I feel better.

'These days it is easier to feel gratitude just for being alive. I feel better'

Passing by all the closed shops and restaurants, each one with their signs, in different versions, saying something like “We’re closed until after Coronavirus”. I stopped in front of a small second-hand clothing store - the store’s sign caught my attention. It said this (see picture):

Translation of the poem in English on the right; in the heart it reads: I stay home

The hugs will return, and the kisses given calmly

if you meet a friend greet him with the soul

Smile, kiss him, from a distance be close

You do not touch your heart only with your hand

Paranoia and fear are not, nor will ever be the way

We will come out of this together, side by side

Look people in the eyes, show them that you care

Across long distances, keep your close and embracing love

If you can, don't worry, taking care is enough, and let love tip the balance

Paranoia and fear are not, nor will ever be the way

We will come out of this together, side by side.

After all the consecutive events of anxiety this morning, I saw the blue sky and read this poem. It reminded me of hope. These are difficult times, everything is changing and it is scary. This is a challenge for the health or finances of some, for the emotions and family unity of others. We all have our own worries, we are all affected, but trust me: after this storm there is a blue sky.

Photo by Alejandra Rivera

This story was shared by Alejandra Rivera, a Colombian Urban Studies graduate and student of international development in Madrid, Spain.

How do you experience living in your city under Coronavirus? Share your story and join us to Spread stories, not the virus.

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