Today I attended a medical appointment. Nothing out of the ordinary in usual times and medically, it wasn’t out of the ordinary. But socially it was. I hadn’t seen anyone outside my family or my colleagues on zoom for months. While the practitioner prepped for the procedure, we made small talk. “Plans for the weekend?” he asked in the routine manner. The question struck me as funny. Melbourne has been under lockdown orders of varying degrees since April. At the moment, we are under stay at home orders, which prohibit people to travel more than five kilometers from their homes (medical appointments are an exception). Kids are home learning, business are closed, everyone is on video calls…
“I’m off to Paris.” I said. We chuckled about the absurdity of that and the banal reality of what we might really do. He expected the highlight of his weekend would be taking his kids to a playground which had reopened for the first time in two months.
After my appointment I sat in my car for a few minutes, savoring being alone for a few moments before driving home, and jumping on a work call. My mind wandered back to Paris. It had been an offhand remark, a joke, but now my imagination latched onto it. Maybe I will go to Paris this weekend it started… Obviously my body is locked down in Melbourne, but there is nothing keeping my mind here, it continued.
I imagine stepping onto the Rue Greffulhe in the ninth, where we stayed in January 2019. At the end of the street I could turn right to the bakery or walk straight ahead to the shop that seemed to have a small, perfectly packaged version of anything you may be lacking in your perfect little kitchen. The fruit was so beautifully packaged and displayed, I took a picture.
When I was studying psychology, I read about a woman who had been imprisoned for years, much of it in solitary confinement. She survived those times by visiting the cities she knew and walking every street. She said did this to occupy her mind and maintain her fragile grip on sanity. I have a very good sense of direction and often travel around places I’ve lived in my mind. When I read her story, I immediately identified with what she had done. I could see myself doing the same thing in her situation.
I’m certainly not in her situation, but my mind wants to go much further than my body can right now. I want to travel the 12 kilometers to see a good friend I’m missing, 15 to the ocean, 230 to the mountain range we visit every September. Beyond that, there are so many places I haven’t been in Australia: the Kimberly, the Daintree, Uluru, coastal northern New South Wales. Then there is the international bucket list: Japan, Iceland, sailing the Northwest Passage, sailing from Croatia to Venice, dog sledding in the Arctic…
But for now I’m content to wander the streets of Paris this weekend. If I’m feeling adventurous I might board a night train from Paris to Berlin, which no longer exists. There I could wander around my old neighborhood, visiting my favorite places. I just might; nothing can stop me.