I walked out of my apartment and felt the breeze in the hallway. When we’d moved into this apartment, months before, I remember wondering what the open-air hallways would feel like when the warmth of late spring turned to fall and winter. I missed the transition, really. The last time I’d really spent any time outside the house was a week before, at the last vestiges of summer seemed to still dwell between the buildings and lay lazily upon the streets.
I felt a familiar feeling, we’d moved here in the winter. The air smelled the same as then, I’d thought it was just the smell of a new city, a new country, a new chapter of life. Now it just smelled like a cool breeze and a chance to be outside again.
The elevator came and I pushed the button for the ground floor. I looked at myself in the mirror and took a breath when greeted with my reflection. A man with hair a few weeks past a haircut, with a face mostly covered by a face mask.
The street scene was what I expected. A busy neighborhood completely deprived of people. Cars sat gathering dust, forgotten and forbidden to be moved. Leaves had fallen, covering the sidewalk and the gutter. The inhabitants, though, were none the wiser. All of us cooped up in our respective apartments, hands washed and special clothes worn whenever we entered or exited.
I walked down the street in the fading light of one day that I was sure would bend into the others- becoming part of a collective period of our lives. Something of a where-were-you-when sort of situation. Perhaps knowing the memory would become part of a fuzzy whole added to the scent of leaves that hung in the air- a city famous for nostalgia experiencing it subjectively and in real-time.
I walked the block to the small supermarket, the 100 meters a quarter of what I was allowed by law to travel, I carried my shopping bag prominently to avoid issue. I wasn’t just a flaneur, I was shopping. I was following the rules. Not that anyone else was on the street to care, but I guess even to a chorus of none appearances must be kept up.
In the distance, a siren wailed, perhaps on the main road 4 blocks away, perhaps further. Sound carried further now with little interference from the citizens. The night before I swear I’d heard a foghorn. We aren’t that far from the Rio and its port, but I’d never heard it before. It made us wonder if in the silence that late-night brought to the city if it’s melancholy tone had drifted this far inland and broke over the city like some sonic tsunami waiting to find high ground so that it can roll back to the vast and open seas.
At the corner, I took stock of a city on pause. The shops weren’t boarded up nor was there an air of abandon. Just an Austral fall day that people had forgotten to attend. A concert no one had bothered to show up to, a riot of earth tones opened to an empty gallery.
As I stood, enjoying what precious little time outside I could I turned around to see a bus trundle up the empty street. Its yellow and green exterior dancing as it went over a speedbump that I’m sure felt lonely and abandoned. As it passed me I noticed no one aboard. It continued on its path, driving to connect essential services, plying the streets of an imprisoned metropolis.
I remained on the corner for a few breaths, each sucked through my mask. Feeling that I was pushing my time allowed outside I sighed and crossed the street towards the market.