Solitude in Times of Quarantine

By Alfredo Fernandez

“… One is alone even in one’s own solitude. Always inconceivable. Always dangerous. Yes. The price one pays for having dared go out and scream.” -Marguerite Duras

The Pichincha volcano.

HAVANA TIMES – The fact I don’t have any children, especially when I have now been living, for seven years, in a country where it isn’t hard to become a father by the time you’re 20, immediately makes me a strange guy. If you add to this the fact that I’m 44 years old and I don’t have a long-term relationship, which is something I decided against some time ago because of financial reasons and a personal decision, then it becomes a little more difficult for people to label me.

I represent what social scientists call a “single-person household”. Yes, I have been living alone for some time now, but I enjoy it a lot and I accept it as something convenient, far from being a problem for me. Why? Because even though my solitude isn’t entirely as creative as I would like (and need) it to be, I still have plenty of good moments alone.

Me and myself still don’t have the greatest relationship (yet), but we are beginning to accept one another. Maybe this is because of what wise people call “maturity of age”, for while I am not an old man in the slightest, I can call myself an adult in the broad sense of the word, and maybe this is why I am now beginning to see the flaws and shortcomings I was so quick to pick up on in others, in myself. I also have to say that this process hasn’t been without a fair dose of surprise or shame, but it hasn’t involved any fear, because I see myself as a human being, and I’d even go so far as saying a good human being, but a human being nonetheless.

I’m not bothered by the fact that I live alone, at least not for now, much less that people think that I am a strange, crazy man, or even that I’m gay, because this is the reward for being brave and living life on your terms and not apologizing for it.

My solitude is full; I have a kindle and an old laptop with good music and books in PDF which give it life, so I am listening to the most exquisite jazz, or concert, opera, rock, Cuban, Brazilian and world music. I don’t need to say much about the books I have. I have many in digital form, the e-book has been a true blessing in my life and it’s thanks to this that I have been able to read classics that I might not have managed to read, as the world is still faraway for me when it comes to my financial means.

For example, I wake up any day of this quarantine and listen to “Senses”, the abum by Cuban pianist Omar Sosa, his music immediately connects with the spiritual, and I read Cabrera Infante’s “Three Trapped Tigers” at the same time. Who dares to say that I am alone? Then, I watch a conference by a writer about how he builds up his characters or the time element in fiction, while I drink a delicious cup of Ecuadorian coffee, strained in the typical Cuban way.

God bless my solitude, in this quarantine, especially when I listen to my neighbors have their marital quibbles, which is normal, according to experts. Living in lockdown with a person you only used to see maybe four or five hours in a day, to then go to sleep, has managed to rock the foundations of even the most stable marriage. Not me though. The only bad thing that I have been able to do to myself in these days is eat more than normal, although I eat quite a bit when things are normal too. I eat a lot, especially bread, I really like carbohydrates and they calm my anxiety, even more than sugar. As I haven’t had a steady job for the past four years, I’m afraid of not being able to eat, so I eat more, even though it might seem ironic.

The Ecuadorean government announced that the country would be in quarantine until April 5th, but given the situation the country is still in, this has now been extended, until the end of the month most probably. I was only prepared to spend 15 days at home, but my situation isn’t the toughest by a far stretch. I have friends to turn to if there is an emergency, I also have a few things I can sell. I am worried about older people without a pension, as well as families who live day to day selling whatever they can on the street.

Aid that the country has received during the quarantine up until now, which includes a curfew from 2 PM until 5 AM, as well as suspending payments for water, electricity and Internet bills as long as this lasts, as well as the interruption of bank transfers, until further notice. If there are other benefits that citizens in this country have a right to, I don’t know about them, because even though the government has announced that hiking up food prices during this time would be fined or taken to trial, this hasn’t happened in reality as I have seen several overpriced products.

Something that I really appreciate right now in these strange times is the view from my window. My home is directly opposite the peak of Pichincha volcano. And I don’t like to trivialize spaces, even when I lived on 12th Street and the Malecon in Havana, especially spaces with such a magnificent view. From my home on 12th street and the Malecon, I remember watching boats leave the Almendares River and go out to high sea, every day. From here, whenever the clouds let me, I see the imposing volcano that looks over the city of Quito. In spite of everything, I always try to feel privileged, and I do.

I still have food, I can listen to great music, read good books and on top of that, I can see Pichincha. I know that all of this will eventually pass, and this also calms me somewhat.

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