Nothing seems real. I wake from dreams within dreams not sure where my imagination ends and the physical begins. Life has changed so dramatically since we moved on Day 39 of the coronavirus containment lockdown. Since then, I’ve been at a complete loss for words.
I’ve always adhered to the rule that if you don’t have anything genuinely interesting to write, don’t write anything at all. I’ve had many, many interesting things to say but much of that would not feel genuine to you who read this. Yes, we have suffered like everyone during the lockdown. In some ways more (thanks kids) and in many ways less (still fully employed). But now. Now…
We have started a new life, one of luxury. I don’t know how to write about the coronavirus confinement because I no longer feel confined. We are somewhere in between vacation – frequent rooftop grilling, days of playing with the kids outside, gardening creeping vines, and continuous home office – constant Skype calls, working late into the evenings, juggling conflicting schedules.
The move went flawlessly. Three big Russian dudes dismantled our old place and packed it into a big truck before driving up the road, turning right twice, and starting to unload here. Boxes came in and we dispatched them to their floors. Random stuff went into the cave. Sunlight poured over everything.
In the 10 days since the move we have experienced the extreme swings of emotion between euphoria of being here and dread of the world after coronavirus. The kids are ever-more demanding. The future foggy with uncertainty. But feeling the sun on my face while smelling the delicious aroma of dry-rubbed ribs and feeling the tickly bubbles of a craft IPA is level of pleasure that has been absent since long before Day 1 of the lockdown. I cannot, in good conscience, complain about my life now. I’m living the dream.
In real life the coronavirus still spreads. Masks are everywhere and brands are even advertising them on Instagram. Queues sprout from each open establishment. People avoid each other by spilling into the streets. I can hardly remember what Paris sounded like when every street was packed with traffic. Now all we hear are the birds.
Much has happened since the last Coronavirus Containment Dispatch. The French government laid out its plan and requirements for opening up the country. The Prime Minister himself acknowledged that many would find their plan too lax and thus too dangerous, others would consider it an affront to basic liberties. It is not an easy tightrope to tiptoe.
The philosophy of deconfinement is to treat each region differently so as not to penalize regions that are suffering less. There is now a daily map published each evening that shows all regions in either green, orange, or red. Depending on where each region is on May 11th – the mythical deconfinement day – the measures will be more or less relaxed. The map measures two factors: how much the virus is spreading in terms of new cases, and what the strain on the hospital system is on that date. Red regions can expect prolonged lockdown including keeping parks shut. You can imagine what green means.
There is little hope that Paris turns green soon after May 11th. The mass of humanity is too tightly packed. Opening up the metro will lead immediately to a second wave. We are not in Bergerac or Morbihan where sheep outnumber humans and fresh clean wind blows in from the sea. We won’t even be able to go there since no matter what happens people will not be able to travel more than 100km.
That being said, Paris also has by far the largest hospital capacity, so perhaps somewhere in the calculation we can foresee a shift towards orange. Restaurants and bars will remain closed until the June 4th evaluation no matter what. It makes sense, restaurants and bars are places where people go to spend time together, providing the bridge for the virus.
Even if we remain in rouge, I will just be happy to be able to have friends over to BBQ with, to be able to run a bit further up the canal and at whatever time of the day I can. I will also be relieved to no longer have to fill out the permission form to go anywhere, to be able to stroll with the kids without constantly glancing at the clock on my phone. Maybe ride my bike down to the Seine or up behind Montmartre to get an injection of the Parisian spirit that I dearly miss.
Even if nothing changes and the strict lockdown continues endlessly, I now have a new context in which to find patience.