Confinement and Coming Home
Spending four months in lockdown in Paris, then traveling to America for the holidays, can give you a whole new perspective on life.
During the first week of March 2020, I was in Florence sipping a glass of red wine and eating roasted boar ravioli while gazing at the Duomo. During those few Italian dream days, one mask wearer turned to two, and then two to four, and then four to forty thousand - until the whole city was blanketed in a gloomy dystopian glaze.
For the next three days it was a race against the clock to get back home to a now not-so-gay Paris before all travel was restricted in and out of France. By the second week of March, the City of Light was officially the City of Lockdown.
At first, spending 23 hours a day in my blessed 30 square meters felt like a breeze. No sweat, no worries, just Microsoft Teams and creamy mushroom soup recipes. I had classes, work, good Internet service – and I was in Paris.
At some point, the novelty wore off, and the arrival of exam week – coupled with reports of the rapid unraveling of the social order in my home country, America – led to the equivalent of an emotional base jump off the Eiffel Tower. Have you ever counted the cracks in your wall? That’s how you know you have too much time on your hands.
Thankfully, the lockdown eventually ended, and soon the streets of Saint-Germain-des-Prés were once again buzzing with bodies eager to soak up the fresh summer air.
After two months inside, though, it appeared that most people couldn’t think past their desire to roam and dine freely. So, as cruel karma would have it, by the fall Paris was gradually being rechained, and would officially spend nearly the rest of the year in a second full confinement.
This time around, my walls felt less like cages, but my sense of self felt more like Jell-O. I could no longer focus on the routine of my life in Paris while tensions back home in America were boiling over from a health crisis and an election simultaneously reaching their peak.
As the second lockdown ended and Christmas approached, so did the time for me to make my biannual visit to the States. Any trip to my native country involves a little re-entry, but this time - after a combined four months of isolation abroad, and all the changes at home - I wondered how I would view my other life, and maybe my other self.
Just hours earlier I had been whipping past the Champs de Mars in an Uber, and now I was in my mom’s Lexus staring out the passenger window and passing by countless sparring signs for the upcoming Georgia senate runoff elections. Within five minutes of being in the car, the yard signs had begged me to “Save America from socialism,” “Save America from the President,” “Save America from a shutdown economy,” and “Save America from the danger of COVID-19.”
All at once, my American hometown felt like an exotic, foreign destination, and the people in it, long-lost friends - scary and distant because there is something about them that you don’t quite understand anymore, and yet still recognizable as part of a past life you lived and loved.
As the barrage of signs finally ceased and we pulled up in front of my favorite Tex-Mex restaurant, I laughed and thought to myself: “Well, at least we can all agree that we need saving in some way or another.”
As for me, I think I’ll just wear a mask and save a few lives, and then I’ll go back to Paris and save myself with a stroll by the Seine. Maybe more people should try that – and then, eventually, we can all get back to the roasted boar ravioli in Florence.
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