I believe it was in first grade when the rumor spread throughout our neighborhood along Ponciano Street. My aunt told me there was a devil woman (with blood-shot eyes) who walked the streets and preyed on small children. Too scared to get out of the house, I would sit in our balcony which fronted the street, and kept a lookout for any lady in red dress (because that was what she reportedly wore). That was how I spent my weekends after that, playing with my civil war toy soldiers among the flower pots that lined our wooden balcony.
To venture out and play in the street had become too stressful for me, at least for a while. Weekdays were the only time I could finally step out of the house but it was different somehow. A school bus would come to pick me and my brother up, bring us safely to school in Matina and then back.
However, even during those bus rides, I maintained my vigilance, and kept looking out the window, scrutinizing every passerby, alertly searching for those fiery, bloodshot eyes. However limited or different that incident may have been, I believe it still qualifies as my first lockdown experience.
In this here 2020 worldwide medical emergency (as many prefer to call the Covid-19 pandemic), I once again relive that old fear: Everyone is on the lookout for an invisible equivalent to my childhood lady in red. All too, are advised to stay home, quarantined like I was back then on the balcony with my toys.
But the similarities end there. This present-day red woman, although invisible, is real enough, and everyone is going to need more than just getting clean and distancing themselves from others to survive. To combat her advances, there is a need for everyone to change their routines completely, and sadly many are finding that so difficult to do.
One of the general calls by both health and government authorities involve staying at home in order to starve the Covid 19 virus for at least 14 to 21 days. For people so used to being on the go, like office workers for example, they will have to adjust to this and their new workspace; which is ironically their homes. It will understandably be tough, regardless of the alternative, but hopefully, the necessity of this sacrifice will all sink in after a while. Among some of my friends, just reading about the harrowing accounts of sufferers in other lands put them firmly in their place, and in this instance, fear may actually protect them.
However for others, the words ‘stay home’ feels like a prison sentence. They tread on still, clad in protection of all sorts, plus a few Hail Marys, justifying their way out the door, while at every step of the way, they are risking possible contagion, and worse, unknowingly spreading it around once positive.
It begs this query then, Is everyone on the same page? I sincerely hope so. However, like what other countries learned last month, it had always been too late to get serious.
On the positive side however, I learned this from my neighbor, a seaman. While this dire time may pose equally-dark consequences, it is time to hold ones dear close. It is time for appreciation of family and personal reflection. My niece on the other hand, has a deeper word for it; she calls it a reboot.
Despite this virus being a scary reincarnation of my childhood fear, it offers everyone to pause, even though it may entail that we smell the flowers through our face masks.