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  • By Diana G. Mendoza

When your soul is on lockdown

Manila — Two pylons and an iron chain in front of Ronald McDonald caught my attention as I walked to the supermarket. The fast food chain was closed. McDonald's — or McDo, as Filipinos call it — stands across its competition, Jollibee, which was also closed. I half-ran to the supermarket that was teeming with people the night before, but was closed early as the government announced a wider lockdown to include Luzon, the Philippines’ biggest island with its capital, Metro Manila, which has spent its first days of a monthlong quarantine.

My early morning supermarket run proved convenient. There was a handful of customers but the goods were few. There were only chicken wings left. There was no fish. The guy at the counter said the deliveries haven’t arrived, probably held up at the metropolis’ borders and being thermal scanned. There were no bananas and just a few veggies. The tomatoes looked pale.

I bought toiletries, eggs, sardines, coconut juice, chips and a bag of the pale tomatoes. There was no cooked food yet but there were a few people asking. The fast food restaurants are closed, said one man, and we need cooked food. The sales clerks said they were still cooking. Even Starbucks is closed, said another, and he said it like it’s a really big deal. I remember I also bought a bottle of the grocery version of Starbucks’ chilled mocha frappuccino to add to my drink options.

I paid quickly, feeling wary as more customers arrived and will surely complain about the half-empty racks. I said to myself I have enough food for now, so I left in a hurry. But outside, there were no jeepneys. My bag wasn’t that heavy so I started to walk back to my place.

I realized I was the only human walking along the empty street. The sun was bright and it was getting summer hot. I looked down and saw my shadow on the pavement. I haven’t seen my shadow in a long time. Or probably, it was my first time to pay attention to it.

There were thoughts coming in but I didn’t have time to understand them. Then a cop posted at the street corner asked where I was going. I said back to my place; just bought some groceries. He told me not to go out if it’s not necessary. We stood far apart, with our face masks.

Back to my apartment, I ate breakfast, washed the clothes that couldn’t wait till the next laundry run, then cleaned. I recognized the mess. I stacked the books. I discovered I have two half-read titles by Murakami and haven’t finished Nadia Murad. I counted more than 25 pairs of shoes and five pairs of flipflops. I’m that crazy, I realized. There were thoughts again but I didn’t have time.

I stopped when I was too tired and sleepy. I have some work to finish, reports for organizations who asked me to write and edit for them, some things I do on the side of journalism. I decided to rest. I wanted to play a movie but had to close my eyes.

I thought about the individuals and families also on home isolation, whose bodies and souls are on lockdown just like mine. I thought about their loved ones who had to go out because they had to work. The order to stay home may be proving difficult for others not used to being home, or being alone. But for others, it might be their best time to rediscover their families and themselves.

My thoughts went back to my shadow. I’m used to solitude, but my own shadow was like a stranger that followed me, a hapless mortal carrying a bag of pale tomatoes, hurrying home because there’s a killer virus with a regal name that’s lurking around for its next hit.

Diana G. Mendoza is a journalist based in Manila.


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