By Cristina Ballesteros

Day one: 18th of March.

I’m at home in London. The official lockdown hasn’t started yet, but I can feel fear coming from the news outside the island. I receive an email: “You will be flying to Madrid in four days,” it says. But I’m still surprised this is actually happening. Last month, before all this craziness exploded, I bought a return flight ticket to Madrid, to then take the usual train to my town in Castilla-La Mancha to see my family. My flight was from 22th to the 30th of March. I was so excited, it’s been a while since last time I saw them, and I’m going to celebrate my birthday with my parents. Obviously, now a few days before my flight, I doubt I will take it, but it seems that the Spanish airports are still open just for Spanish people who want to return to their homes, and the airports in London are still running, as here in the UK, nothing has stopped yet: people in pubs, going to work, using public transport, basically doing normal life. Things in Spain are getting worse and worse. More Corona-infected people. Social media and family call bring me face to face with the reality of the situation.

Day two: 20th of March.

Two days before my flight. I keep thinking my flight is going to be cancelled, but it hasn’t yet. So, I actually think I might be able to take that plane. I really want to stay with my family in this time, see my mum, dad, and my grandma.

But all of a sudden, a thought comes to me: what if I’m putting them in a risk? They are the vulnerable people, especially my grandma. I might have the virus already and have it asymptomatic, or I might get it during the (tricky?) journey to my town. I think to myself: well, maybe I can go to my parent’s cottage five miles away from my town and do my own quarantine, it would be difficult for my parents to know I was staying there on my own for 14 days, but that could be an option? Could I go without the risk of infecting them? I don’t know.

And then, a second thought comes up: If I managed to take that flight, I’m probably not going to be able to come back to London for my return journey on 30th of March, because by that time UK might be in lockdown. What would I do? When will I be able to come back to London? I work freelance, so what will happen with my career? Will I be paying my rent in London for over three months without living there? I mean, rent in London and not being able to work... that’s like a terror movie. But then, what’s the point in staying in London?

I check my airline company: the flight is still going. I think I’m going to take it. I’m going on to the Internet to book my train ticket from Madrid to my town. There is none! They all disappeared! I told my parents, maybe someone could pick me up in Madrid? My dad asks a friend: no, they actually can’t. The police and guardia civil are on the roads and they fine you if you don’t have an essential need to take the car, and picking me up from the airport is not included. Well, another option is to change trains in different cities... I feel everything is getting more and more difficult. I feel like I have to make life changing decisions in a few hours. Things are not like before.

Day three: 21rt of March: Day before my trip to Spain. I wake up. Very worried. I’m going to take the flight. Yes, I’m doing it, even if I’m going around from one doubt to the next. But I think it’s the right thing to do, staying with my family in this moment. But still there’s one per cent of me that thinks I should stay in London, because that’s the right thing to do. I call a friend. She is from Spain but she lives in the UK as well. She says something that resonates with me: “You should stay where you want to live, because you don’t know anything about the future, you don’t know what’s going to happen next. You should stay where you want to live.” And 18 hours before my flight I decide the right thing to do is to stay in London. I couldn’t forgive myself if I put my family at risk. I don’t know how I will feel to be so far from where I live and work. I would be leaving one home for another.

Decision made. I decide to stay in London. Three hours later, I receive an email from the airline: “Your flight has been cancelled”. I think the universe conspired for me to stay here, but the past 48 hours has given me perspective into how drastically normal life has changed.

 

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