The overbearing feeling these days is not quite palpable. We can suffer inflation, we can endure robberies, we can see our lights go away, we can drain the last drop of water in our pipes. But there is one thing we cannot do anything about, that feeling of emptiness that we all live in Venezuela.
I have been wondering a lot about why I am feeling emptier as days go. Not lonely. Not quite isolated. Not lost. Not bored. Just empty.
Two weeks ago I had to return to San Felipe for a couple of days. Shelves were empty. I could not find proper food for that evening meal at my briefly un-shuttered home. The stores I used to go two years ago were closed. I was told my "frutero" left the country. My straight form his farm dairy guy has been closed from months now, unable to fight the constant robberies at his farm. I suppose whatever milk he still manages to produce is sold straight away.
My old supermarket had only some dry goods, washing stuff and lots of chips. All the refrigerators were off. The produce was onion. That is, not even a small tomato or even a humble yuca. Just onions. I went to a new grocery store. A gigantic thing at the entrance of San Felipe, too big even in good times. Money laundering for sure. It was empty of produce, all but two refrigerators plugged off. One with some miserable looking cold cuts left over that simply looked cheap and disgusting. The other was a large freezer that was fully stacked with ice cream. It was odd to see such an amount of ice cream when there is nothing else "fresh", not even some yogurt. But then again ice cream has become one of the pricier items, and too expensive for deteriorated San Felipe. Let them eat ice cream.
My old San Felipe is gone. At 6 PM downtown is a ghost zone. All closed long ago, if they still open day time. Everyone stampeded home before night fall. My occasional breakfast joint hole was still functional but a ghost of its past, the attendants almost raggedly dressed and so happy to see me.
I was glad to drive back to Caracas before my good memories from San Felipe got emptied.
At the office we are half of what we were a year ago. Some left because for the amount of money we could pay them they might as well stay home. Most because they left the country, or needed time to get fixed to leave. Sadly, we do not need to replace them. We wonder whether in December there will be people left. We might empty out those left in December.
Shelves are not that empty. Shopping carts are. People just buy a handful of items, few enough they do not even need a grocery bag to carry them. A good thing since in many places you now need to pay for your bags. If available. I can still do my groceries for the week, but my cart is now empty of those little items one puts for rewards.
School has started. And yet streets failed to fill up as it happened when school was back. In fact the heavy traffic of Caracas has become just traffic. When you are stuck in your car it is now because a rickety jalopy broke down in the middle of the way. And there are more of those as months pass.
Now more than half of my relatives are gone. The S.O. is faring better with his relatives but now one in five are gone. Our gossip is now about who might be leaving and how fared those who left.
There are still a few places with crowds like over expensive restaurants were moneyed chavismo can go, or those who are paid in USD. But those places, some of which we used to go on occasion are now empty of soul. Noisy, gaudy, bland in your plate. Going to the mall for shopping is walking in front a shoe store all but empty, maybe a dozen pairs in the huge display, ugly, and likely not in my size. A similar story in other stores, and that if they are open. Some malls now have more than half their stores closed. The ones still open are mostly hair dressers, repair shops and food joints. I have been in errands in two that were at least three quarters shut down. The only areas with still some activity are the areas where foreigners reside, mostly for security reasons, the Altamira Los Palos Grandes corridor to Valle Arriba. There you can see plenty of huge office towers under construction, towers that will remain empty but with the illegal funds now properly laundered. Nowhere else will you see construction. In fact, what you'll see is deterioration, lack of painting. At night now in many apartment buildings half the homes fail to light.
Emptiness reaches far. The "kioscos" now have no newspaper to sell, no magazines. Only the pro regime ones can be seen, good enough to line your bird cage. Book stores are empty of decent books. Only left overs and self help. I have dropped cultural activities long ago, preferring my Direct TV, my hundreds of CD, my atlas and science book collection. With them I can try to fill my mind with travels away form my travails. Most of my books are still in San Felipe, half of my CDs. Each time I bring some. Next time it will be my poetry books and jazz CDs. But first it had to be operas or the Elgar violin concerto that I listen as a type. Maybe not the better choice tonight.
There is emptiness around me. Emptiness. And my S.O. is not doing well; I perceive the ultimate emptied heart.