The tree in front of our home reaches out broadly from its position in the courtyard, spider branches long and thin are populated in clusters of delicate young leaves that jingle in the wind. The sun reveals their layers of translucency, going from a green so young it is phosphorescent through deeper levels until there is the established hunter of summer leaves. It is my new best friend.
From our couch I watch it dance, leaves moving like a piano player’s fingers sculpting an invisible sonata of atmospheric conditions: the calm lazy wave of a beautiful day being born, the straining whip of a storm. Its leaves tickle my head each time I walk up to our home. The petals of its white flowers are the confetti that is still celebrating the victory of our move. We are three weeks into living in our new place and one full workweek into the deconfinement.
My wife and I took Friday off to spend the day together. The babysitter came to watch the kids and at 10:30 we left the house together on bikes to venture out again into the Paris that had been off limits. It was our first time since the lockdown that we were free of tugging kids and not exhausted at the end of the day. Though the air was brisk the excitement blazed in the morning light. We headed towards the center, down Rue Lafayette and over the train tracks at Gare de L’Est. Paris had come back to life.
We went to the Socialite Family for furniture and home decoration inspiration. The store was on rendezvous only but the 11:30 appointment did not show up so the saleswoman let us into the store. It was the first non-grocery or hardware store that I had been inside since the lockdown. The impulse to touch everything was overwhelming. We sat on couches and tested armchairs. We smiled at each other with our eyes.
The next stop was In Good We Trust, the American grocery store to try and find some Frank’s. The store was open, a good sign, but the Frank’s shelf was empty except for a small bottle of the chili lime version. There were no Cadbury Cream eggs either. I still bought the Frank’s – any Frank’s is better than none – and some other barbecue sauces and we headed into the Marais to continue shopping.
The Rue de Vielle de Temple narrows into a corridor of boutiques and on a normal, pre-coronavirus day the concentration of humanity would have created a density on par with a small black hole. Today the shops were open but the street was nearly empty. We ducked into Bobbies and my wife took advantage of the emptiness to try on and scoop up a couple of pairs of shoes.
Shopping during coronavirus means fewer people in the stores, limitations in what you can try on, and antibacterial gel everywhere. People stay spaced out. The warmth of salespeople is masked. Yet the goods have never been more accessible. There is no jostling and seeking out someone to help. Every store is a customized experience.
We wound through the maze of tiny streets in the bottom of the Marais and ended up at BHV. The Hôtel de Ville stood in front of us where we locked up our bikes. The ornate architecture was a shot of Parisian antiretroviral, a drug to take away the lingering sting of lockdown. I could feel that magic again.
For lunch we rode over to Petit Bao for a couple of steamed buns and sat on a bench in the sun to gulp them down. We split ways and I headed to get inked. Landscape Tattoo was newly reopened and I was greeted by the steady buzz of the needle guns. My tattoo guy was happy to be working again. Lockdown had halted his passion.
I felt the searing on my arm and my breath was warm under my mask. The pain washed over me and I channeled it into a focal point. I let me eyes close. The day had been so freeing and it was still only halfway done. Ribs were marinating in my homemade BBQ sauce since the night before in our fridge, preparing themselves for our evening with friends. A solid springtime weather forecast combined with the limits of deconfinement promised a weekend full of grilling.
When I flipped the ribs over the first time the juices sizzled into a cloud of smoke. A glass of Saint Amour in my hand and conversation all around, we compared our quarantine experiences, how we dug into the stocks of wine, experimented with new recipes, the limits and stress of work. Now with a bit of distance it is easier to synthesize what we lived through, though the details are already slipping away.
We raised our glasses to the deconfinement, long may it live.