In French, you don’t say lockdown, you say confinement. We’ve all been confined to various degrees for the last year, but the last six months has been an endless succession of soft-boiled restrictions, not enough to actually stop the sharp increase in Covid statistics, but just enough to make everyone's life miserable. Since November 1, 2020 there has been a 6pm (then 7pm) curfew, most non-essential stores have been closed, all eating establishments have been closed except for takeout (no outdoor seating), and all cultural institutions have been closed (museums, monuments, theaters, cinemas, concerts, etc.). For a couple of months you couldn’t go further than ten kilometers from home. Up until last week, Paris was a sad place. Shuttered storefronts, closed cafés, dark doorways. It is only now that the vaccination program has finally taken off, that change is in the air.
May 19. First restrictions lifted. First cup of coffee at a café terrace. Went out with my husband at 8am, for fear that the one terrace in my neighborhood would be full. It wasn’t. It did fill up quickly, mostly with workmen who have been tormenting the nearby RER station for the last several months. I breezed up to the counter and ordered, triumphant, as though I had just won a prize for being the best customer ever. Not sure the barman agreed, as his face was stone, which quite normal for him, and since normalcy is what we are all longing for, I was pleased. That said, when he brought us our coffees, I thought I detected a slight twinkle in his eye, a lift in his gait, a certain swagger even as he set the cups in front of us and quickly slipped away, not even giving us enough time to say ah, how good it is to drink out of something ceramic and smooth. Goodbye, cardboard coffee cups, may our days of standing around like fools on the sidewalk, drinking coffee as we shift uncomfortably from one foot to the other, be finally over. Now it was time to sip the black brew. It was good, hot and bitter, but gone too soon, as it usually is at a French café, where coffee is strong and served in reduced quantity. Usual. Normal. Like old times. Sort of.
May 22. First movie at a theater. Literally, at a theater. There is no cinema in my suburban town, but there is a cultural center with a big auditorium where there are concerts and plays and where they pull down a giant screen and show movies. To my delight, they were showing “Adieu Les Cons” which has gotten rave reviews but had be pulled from the screens right after it was released due to Covid. The theater was quite full, according to protocol, with two seats between each small party, and masks and gel and all the rest of it. So, it was really less than half full, but it felt full, and we were all full of anticipation and not a small amount of disbelief because we were going to see a real movie, dammit, not something on Netflix. The lights went down and after various entreaties to behave sensibly and safely, there was a 30-second short welcoming us back. I had tears in my eyes before the main feature began.