So I’ll admit it. I haven’t been doing my fair share of the dog walking around here. My husband’s picked up the slack, he’s been doing a double (and sometimes triple) shift. It’s not that I want to take advantage, but it makes me nervous to go out. He, on the other hand, jumps at the chance to escape these four walls—cabin fever and such.
For me, going out during quarantine is like walking through a minefield in Angola. What if someone sneezes in my direction? What if they cough in my face? It sounds paranoid, I know, but paranoia is a side effect of quarantine, just like cabin fever.
“I’ll do it, dear,” I said, today, after basking in the sun on our little balcony, wondering whether the trees in the park were blooming. “It’s my turn, after all.”
“I’ll come too,” he said.
“Do you think we can? I mean do the regulations permit the two of us to walk her together?”
“I believe so,” he said. “They permit exercise in the outdoors as long as you don’t group together. We’ll stay at least one meter apart.” He showed me the relevant article in the newest edict.
There I could ascertain that the quarantine legislation permits you to walk the dog, as long as the dog needs to perform its bodily functions. Meaning: you can’t just walk with the dog for the heck of it. There has to be a valid reason. And don’t forget the self-certification paperwork.
“Where does it say anything about getting exercise?” I asked.
“Here,” he said, scrolling further through the complicated instructions.
Confident we weren’t breaking the law and going to be slapped with a fine and a citation by carabinieri and polizia lurking on every corner, I found it easy to muster the gumption to put on my shoes, my “outside” jeans and wrap a scarf around my mouth. I grabbed a pair of purple shades too: de rigueur for dog-walking in quarantine. I knew it was sunny and gorgeous outside.
We climbed down the four flights, our dog under my husband’s arm. She’s had an operation on her ACL recently, but no elevator for us in the middle of quarantine. I mean, you have to touch doorknobs and push buttons and who knows who touched them before you?
Out on the sidewalk, the branches of the trees overhead were still bare, but I thought I could discern leaf buds forming. The sky was lacquer blue and a warmish breeze was blowing. Thinking of airborne particles though, I wrapped my scarf tighter around my neck. I could feel the air whooshing in through the loosely knit material and wished I was wearing my hard-won mask (tomorrow’s story). The street was empty, no cars belching exhaust scooting past, no lumbering busses. No police or carabinieri either.
Shortly we were overtaken from behind by two joggers.
“Buongiorno,” they said.
“Buongiorno,” we said back.
“I thought we were in quarantine,” I said when they’d passed.
“We are,” said my husband. “They’re getting exercise. Remember? It’s permitted.”
“Well, they are pretty far apart,” I noted. “Just like us.”
At the corner, a man we’ve spoken to before, from Senegal, asked if we wanted to buy a cigarette lighter. He indicated his cardboard box-top filled with lighters, flashlights, earbuds, and other sorts of handy gadgets. It was parked in the doorjamb of a shuttered commercial establishment.
“No thanks,” my husband said, but poked some money into another of his bags, a meter or two away.
“Where does he quarantine to,” I wondered as we walked on. “Has the government made any provisions for the homeless?”
“I don’t know,” my husband answered. “But they should.”
We rounded the block and continued onward.
In front of our supermarket, today the line stretched half-way down the block. Here, social distancing was well in evidence. People stood ten feet at least from each other. There was the odd smoker, smoking. Many wore masks. Some had gloves.
“I hope this flattens the curve,” I said.
“Yeah,” my husband said.
Just then, a woman walking ahead of us sneezed and blew her nose loudly. She wasn’t that close, but since there was no traffic, I insisted we walk in the middle of the street. “We’ll keep our distance, this way,” I thought.
We rounded the next corner on our way back. An old man sat playing an accordion—a tarantella—begging for money. Someone with a shopping cart heading to the supermarket, threw him a coin. “Do you have a cigarette?” he asked us.
“No, we don’t smoke,” we said, still keeping our social distance, still walking in the street.
Another jogger came toward us, running, also in the middle of the street. When he was level with me, he coughed, and jogged on.
“Oh my God,” I said.
“Don’t worry,” my husband said. “He was far away.”
“Not far enough.” I hate it when someone tells you not to worry. That’s precisely when you worry more.
“Look on the bright side, at least no one stopped us to ask us for our documents.”
“Some bright side.”
“You want to pass by the park, see if the trees are blooming?”
“No,” I said. “The dog no longer needs to perform her bodily functions. It would now be illegal.”
When we got home, we climbed back up the four flights.
I took a shower.
I knew I didn’t like walking the dog during quarantine.