The thermometer

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To understand Oscar’s concern, we must take into account that he lives alone, that he is autonomous and that he has just turned sixty. That makes it triple vulnerable to confinement. As a good hypochondriac, he spends many hours analyzing any symptoms that may coincide with those that, according to the WHO, cause the epidemic. The problem is that, on the first day of confinement, Oscar finds that the only thermometer he has does not work.

At first, not being able to certify whether or not you have a fever is a relative concern. He lives in a neighborhood central enough to know that any of the three pharmacies nearby is able to sell him a thermometer. What’s more, he decides that he will buy two of the digitals so that it does not happen again. The next day, then, coinciding with the authorized departure to buy the newspaper, he went to the pharmacy. But when ordering the two thermometers, she stumbles upon the pharmacist’s face of circumstances, which tells her that they are over and that she doesn’t know when they will have them again. The expression and comment of the pharmacist are repeated in all pharmacies and, for days, accompany any request for gloves, alcohol and, not to mention, masks.



(Pere Duran / NORD MEDIA)

Oscar is scandalized that, at a time like this, the inmates cannot have the essential material to know how they are and to be able to preserve a minimum domestic prophylaxis. However, perhaps because since he turned sixty he has decided not to be so outraged, he attributes it to the general inefficiency experienced by the planet and the exceptional nature of the moment. Apparently, Oscar does not present any symptoms but, from time to time, he falls into abysses of restlessness that push him to check his pulse and regret to unhealthy limits not having a thermometer. Think, of course, about asking a neighbor. But if a neighbor asked him for a thermometer it would seem inappropriate and he would distrust that neighbor. Asking for a thermometer is not the same as asking for salt. The thermometer has an intimate component and, furthermore, even assuming that it was socially acceptable to ask the neighbors for thermometers, it could not be left either because the only one that does not work.

Total: For a week, as the news about the epidemic worsens, he makes the daily tour of the pharmacies and stumbles upon the helplessness of the pharmacists. Obviously, Oscar tries to buy two thermometers online. But the few he meets promise him an absurd delivery date (mid-June) or ask him for a fortune equivalent to a week’s earnings (from when he still had earnings, of course). So he celebrates being well, attributes the hypochondriacal condition of being an asymptomatic carrier and, without gloves or masks, goes out to applaud the balcony at eight o’clock. Without a defined strategy, he thinks that perhaps the moment of applause will allow him to fraternize with a neighbor and, in the heat of the emotion, who knows if he will find a way to ask him, please, if I could leave him a thermometer.




After eating the standard yogurt and kiwi, Oscar feels the mandatory chills of the fever ”


We have said that to understand Oscar we must bear in mind that he is autonomous, that he lives alone and that he has just turned sixty. Add to that what is shy, of a self-destructive shyness so it has denial of a social space that not only would not harm him but would make life more interesting without disturbing the privacy of others. This explains why, when applauding, she smiles with the restraint of those who accept that, after the applause, the neighbor on the next balcony feels the need to sing Laura Pausini’s songs. It seems to Oscar that applauding the workers who are at the forefront of the epidemic and singing to Laura Pausini are morally and emotionally incomparable, but he endures it because life is rare.

Until the Sunday that opens the third week of confinement arrives. At this point the numbers of infections and deaths are tragic and the applause has languished somewhat. Only the false Laura Pausini maintains her enthusiasm, more narcissistic than supportive. After dining on the standard yogurt and kiwi, Oscar feels the mandatory chills of fever. Reacts by following family advice, bundling up a lot, and getting into bed. Sleep, disturbed by fever, alternates moments of placidity and remnants of nightmares. At some point the image of his grandfather comes to him, buried in Belgrade, co-author of a memory book that, without having sought it, changed the destiny of his family. The grandfather said that the flu is cured with “sheet juice”. It was an expression that Oscar’s mother, co-author of the same book, also instilled in him as one of those truths that define the character of a tribe.




The fury to order and the time available allows him to open boxes that he had never opened ”


The next day, still with chills, Oscar celebrates not having a cough and hopes that the source of the discomfort has nothing to do with the epidemic. Like so many other days, confinement forces you to spend your down time (all) ordering boxes, shelves, and cabinets. Oscar understands the verb to order as a synonym for destroy. Whenever he has time to order, he displays his mental predisposition to get rid of everything that, when he doesn’t have time, he accumulates without any criteria. The problem is that in recent years he has become a kind of executor of the legacy of his writing mother and, by extension, of the few documents that remain of his grandfather. The frenzy to order and the time you have available allow you to open boxes that you have never opened. In one of them he finds the original manuscript of his grandfather’s memoirs and, inside a transparent plastic bag, three of his personal belongings, from when he died in Belgrade. The belongings are: a fountain pen, a pocket watch and … (if special effects could be introduced into life, an intrigued piano or a chorus of motivated eunuchs would sound) a thermometer. Oscar does not give credit. He looks askance at the indecipherable calligraphy of the manuscript, checks that the fountain pen can perhaps be repaired, values ​​the metaphorical and literal weight of the watch. But, above all, what attracts your attention is the thermometer. It is a thermometer of the old ones, of the mercury ones, kept in a perfect case, with just the right degree of friction so as not to drop or spoil it. Febrile and excited, Oscar feels the fleeting temptation to put it on his armpit to finally see if it still works. But it immediately seems impudent and somewhat macabre. Think of the thermometer, which probably traveled from Yugoslavia to France and, years later, again from France to Yugoslavia. Imagine grandfather preserving his personal belongings without calculating that, once dead, when you are reduced to the papers you have written and the objects you have not had time to destroy, it may happen that the most timid of your grandchildren, frightened by A few chills that he would have fought with the contempt of the juice of sheets, wonder if it is healthy that a thermometer is hereditary.




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