Before the virus: Looking back on some last ‘ordinary’ moments

The coronavirus scare has done something to time. The days, weeks, and now the months, have blurred and stretched as talk of reopening the world has taken over for millions waiting and wondering at home.
Before the virus: Looking back on some last ‘ordinary’ moments
File Photo (Reuters)


There are few of life’s usual rhythms. And like so many cataclysms before this one, memories are settling in of the old times, for better or worse. What was normal then and isn’t now? Here’s what a few around the world had to say about their last “normal” moment before the pandemic took hold:
New York:
Rafael Familia began work last July as a bar-back in Manhattan at The Crocodile Lounge, where drinks come with free mini pizzas and Skee-Ball is also on tap. The 30-year-old native New Yorker, now living in his aunt’s spare room in the Bronx, had been working in bars for five years after leaving college when he ran out of money. He was trying to pay down his student debt and head back to school. “On March 16, we were mandated to close down suddenly,” he said. “We all lost our jobs at that moment. It was one of the most bizarre things ever. There was no point in being angry.” Familia, his co-workers and their regulars gathered at the bar that night, before last call at 8 pm.
“We kinda just held a going-away party,” he said. “We had a Cheers’ moment. We basically just drank whatever was on the shelf. It was like, we may never see this place open ever again. We just had fun and danced. People kept showing up that I hadn’t seen in years.” “We knew we were going to see hard times after that night.”
Ask undertaker Franck Vasseur to recall the last funeral he “enjoyed” and you get back a sad, somewhat confused stare from the tired eyes under his dishevelled mop of hair. Dealing with a flood of bodies since March has turned his world into a head-spinning procession of death.
Unable to comfort families who can’t accompany bodies for cremation or gather in large numbers for funerals, Vasseur feels robbed of his purpose. “We have been in a centrifuge,” he said. Eventually, casting his mind back, he digs up a comforting memory.
It was a funeral he organised for an architect who died suddenly on a trip out of Paris. Vasseur swelled with nostalgia and pride in recalling a job well done. The flowers.
The speeches. The marker pens handed out to family members who scribbled last words of love and remembrance on the plain wooden coffin. The ceremony was at Pere Lachaise, the Paris cemetery that’s the final resting place for a dizzying array of celebrities: Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison.
“There were tears, there was joy, there was music. Some people spoke, others could not bring themselves to speak. There was sharing. There was warmth,” Vasseur recalled. “The things I miss, all the things we don’t have now.” Now, “we have nothing. Just bodies being evacuated.”
Mariana Makramalla is usually hunched over a table, snipping small pieces of coloured stone with pliers in her family’s mosaics workshop in the western Jordan town of Madaba. Typically, Madaba attracts tourists who also visit nearby Mount Nebo, where the Bible says Moses was granted a view of the Promised Land.
But Jordan closed its borders in midMarch, just before peak tourist season, as it tried to halt the virus. Makramalla said she’s a bit aimless these days, staying up until dawn and puttering. She misses the structure of her time spent in the workshop.
She loves the sense of accomplishment, the compliments she receives for good work and the lively exchanges with Arab and foreign tourists.
Associated Press

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