barceloneta; or, quarantine dreams

BARCELONA. Just the sound and shape of the word makes my mouth water these days. Ever since I did an interview with some scientists some weeks ago, smart men who have been requisitioned by the Catalan Health Department to do disease testing, the city’s name has been stuck on me. I’m dreaming about it. I am dreaming about when I get out of Estonia. I am dreaming about when the floodgates are opened, when we are permitted to travel. When I do, the Catalan capital will be destination one. I close my eyes and I am there on La Rambla, my table full of savory seafood paella and caramel creamy orange desserts and a big glass of sweet red wine in my hands, with the buttons of my shirt open, a sultry breeze blowing in. In the mornings from a cramped apartment in Barceloneta overlooking the beach I finesse an old typewriter and there are journals strewn about full of charts and ideas. I have no time to clean, so it looks as if KAPO has ransacked my room looking for the antidote to life. I’m working on a new kind of fiction here in Barceloneta, a blend of surrealism, modernism, the new sincerity. No more time for little games. I’m tired of the dying old world. I want something new.

You know I’m not alone. We were all frustrated with it. We’ve been frustrated with it for ages. The panic, the disease has only laid bare our frustrations. It is a giant glimmering mirror reflecting back to us what we had suspected all along. We knew everything was broken, yet we were content to step over it, like a fissure in the street. We talk about waiting to go back to what was before, but do we really want to go back? Not in our hearts. Let time then run its course. Let’s see where this goes. Maybe on the other side of this, there is something far more fulfilling. Maybe on the other side of this there is a small table waiting with wine, women, and desserts.

Of course it’s all just a mad springtime quarantine dream. For weeks I have actually been pacing back and forth here in Viljandi, very far from my dream of Barceloneta, exploring every trail, every nook, opening up new worlds and universes I had once been indifferent to or ignored. One day in town, I happened upon a mass grave to Estonians executed for their role in the 1905 uprisings. Around the old walls of the fortifications, I have encountered strange stone staircases that seem to emerge from the grass and lead to nowhere. A local hotel has allowed clients to order food or drink to take away, and there is a bottle of disinfectant to use both before and after.

Last night, I saw a man standing on top of the diving platform at the beach, just staring off into the distance. He was just up there in the evening wind, staring away. That’s when I knew he had it too, the same thing I had. Just as I was dreaming of Barcelona, he had his own delusions and fantasies. One of my American friends has even acted on this impulse. He was visiting Indonesia and just decided to stay. Now he is setting up a new life on some remote island. He’s invited me to come and says they have spare bedrooms. I told him I would, as soon as my raft is ready. I’m reading Kon-Tiki to prepare for the eventual voyage. This is what it has come to. We are not going mad in the traditional sense, no, but there is a weird energy to this new quarantined existence. Something, quite honestly, I had never experienced before but that I also enjoy immensely.

Through the forest there is a path that leads to a dock on the lake. It is here that I come almost every day now and meditate. I lie on my back and feel the rhythm of the water, face the sun, breathe, and sun myself like a seal. I turn over and jot down thoughts in my notebook, the same notebook I’ll take with me to Barceloneta. Today I was there and a young woman dressed in blue arrived through the reeds by the lake. “Do you mind if I go for a swim?” she asked me. “Be my guest,” I said, and tried not to look as she disrobed and plunged into the water. She floated there a while in the lake waters and I wrote about my dream of Barcelona in my book. Then she sat beside me on the dock and dried herself in the sun and I set my journal down and we talked a while about writing. I was so tired of thinking, of searching, of striving, I thought. I didn’t need to go anywhere. Not just yet. Even Barcelona could wait. Everything I needed was here.

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