So, today has been quite an exciting day. Today, for the first time in 7 weeks, I went outside and walked around with no purpose other than to get some exercise.
If you’re not already aware, as of today, we in Spain are allowed outside for exercise. There are various timeslots applicable in towns and cities of over 5,000 people (of which Valencia is clearly one): 6-10am and 8-11pm for the general adult population, 10am-12 noon and 7-8pm for people in need of support and over 70s, and 12-7pm for children up to 14 years of age, with supervision. If you’re walking, you can do so with one person you live with and must remain within a 1km radius of home. For sporting activities such as running or cycling, you can go further, but you must do it alone.
I haven’t been sleeping brilliantly recently (for reasons that should soon become clear) so I had planned to get up and go first thing, before the streets became too crowded, but in the event I didn’t wake up until 6.50 (I didn’t get to bed until 2.00!) and was in no rush to get kitted out and go, so I ended up waiting until this evening.
I left home at 9.00pm feeling a strange nervous excitement. There was a really strange atmosphere, not least as I’d picked the time of the cacerolada protest to go out, so there were loads of people banging pots and making a heck of a noise. The streets were pretty busy, perhaps even more so than when I used to walk to work, although there was far less traffic. Someone coughed as she walked past me. I found myself holding my breath a lot.
And then I got to the park in the riverbed and I walked, first one way and then the other. It’s fair to say that the footpaths were even more crowded than the pavements had been, but by walking on the grass, I managed to avoid being too close to anybody – and somehow managed to avoid treading in anything undesirable either! Then I turned back towards home, taking a different route along quieter streets. I walked around the block a few times before letting myself back in but somehow, I was quite happy to come home after less than an hour, knowing that I’ll be able to do it again tomorrow. In fact, tomorrow I might even go for a run. Or not. (My legs might not be too happy with me after this morning’s online balance workout!)
All in all, the whole experience was quite surreal. It was weird to be outside and walking freely on the streets, but at the same time it also felt weird to be quite so nervous of the people around me. I’ve never experienced anything quite like it before. I imagine it’ll get easier with time. I just hope we haven’t been let out too soon – I know for a fact that not everybody is following the rules, and the more they are relaxed, the more people seem willing to stretch them.
And I have good reason for wanting to stretch them myself – but as you’ll probably already know if you know me at all, if I am anything, I am one for playing fair.
Anyway, what is this reason of which I speak? Well, let me start at the beginning.
When I left the UK, my friends at Skills & Learning kept telling me that I was going to meet a handsome Spanish man named Pedro or Pablo and settle down and be very happy with him. I never really believed any of it, but I played along and whenever I’ve spoken to Kimberly, she’s asked me how the hunt for Pedro was going. But in truth I wasn’t really looking. In fact, in less than two years I’ve gone from being terrified of being alone for the rest of my life to actually feeling quite happy and confident on my own. I am enough.
But that’s not to say I don’t have room for someone in my life. In fact, perhaps it made me more open, more relaxed about letting life bring what it may. Certainly, I had started to joke with my friends that I needed a Spanish boyfriend to help improve my fluency. In fact, I think I told him the same thing on the night we met, which I now regret. But I was far from sober and I thought I was being playful and flirtatious, although it probably just came across as gobby. Fortunately, it didn’t stop us exchanging phone numbers.
The problem is that the night we met was the night of 7th March, exactly one week before we went into lockdown. We had arranged to meet up again on 14th, but then events conspired against us and so we went into lockdown without having seen each other again. We still haven’t. And as we live more than 2km apart, the current exercise rules don’t even allow us to walk in the same area, let alone stop and say hello.
So why am I telling you this? Well, for the same reason I wrote about my wobble early last year. Because I want to be truthful, always. And because I can’t not be upfront about it any more. Last week, when I wrote my last post, I struggled with how much I should say. This time, there’s no question of being coy. And it’s ok. He knows. We have talked loads, both by chat and video call – the longest video calls of my life (which is quite something considering they have been mostly in Spanish). And he gets me. He totally gets me. And it’s crazy and it’s weird and it’s wonderful.
At the writing group on Wednesday, the prompt was ‘gap’. So, other people wrote about minding the gap at Bank Station or a gap in a wall. Not me. I wrote about the gap between who I am and who I appear to be, the gap between how we all are and how we present ourselves, and whether it’s really possible to ever be completely seen. And although I didn’t specifically refer to video calls, I was thinking about them. Do they widen the gap, or do they narrow it? Certainly, it’s an intense way to communicate. There is nowhere to hide. And maybe that’s why we’ve been so honest with each other.
My friends think we’re slightly bonkers, that we should have arranged to meet up today, but I find it really reassuring that he has put me under no pressure to do something that would make me feel uncomfortable.
There have been moments when I’ve thought we might never meet, that he would get bored of me before we were allowed. Each time, the thought has got me down for a few moments. But then I remind myself that it doesn’t matter.
That might seem a strange thing to say about something I want so much, but it’s not. Because there is no such thing as future happiness. There is only happiness in the here and now, in the moment. If I am happy now, that is all that matters. And I am. And so, I think, is he.
So now we just have to hold tight for just over a week until we (hopefully) enter ‘phase 1’ and the restrictions loosen up a bit more. And then I’ve told him to expect an enormous hug. And I’ll probably become mega-shy and say ‘Oh my God,’ a lot, but that’s nothing new.
Where things will go after that, who knows. But I can’t wait to find out.