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  • RJ Smith

A Jog Through Paris


I roll over at 11 am. Throat was a little sore yesterday. Was worried I had the sickness that must not be named. Decided to sleep in and feeling good now. No work today but nothing unusual there.


The sky is grey. No rain but sporadic spittle from the heavens. Bars and restaurants all closed. But I can see the boulangerie is open through the Arch at the end of the rue de l’Exposition. A few patrons inside queueing up for les essentiels.


I reach the corner of the rue Saint Dominique where the old fishmonger is usually stationed cracking open oysters. Lining them up on the ice. Enticing passers by. Opposite the terrace where the bobos discuss Lacan and property prices over cafés allongés.


I take a right. Look inside La Fontaine de Mars. The restaurant I pass every day but can’t afford to eat in. They're closed but plenty of people inside. Clearing things out. Preparing to close down for the long haul. It doesn't seem wise.


I lock eyes with the man who looks like the owner. Reading glasses on his forehead. Crystal blue eyes encased in fatigue and resignation. He’s been shut down. Soon we’ll all be shut down. That’s why I’m going on this jog. Last chance for weeks. Months even.


I start down the avenue Bosquet. Pass wealthy women piling effects into SUVs. They’re well-maintained but the affectless air is gone. A little frantic now. Headed to the country to escape us viral proles. Leaving us to fester in the world’s prettiest petri dish.


I arrive at the river. No movement around me except the water flowing fast out of town. The tide is high. I run fast until I reach a flooded point and have to jump onto the concrete barrier. I continue like that through the dark under Pont Alexandre III, concentrating on keeping my balance before reaching the other side.


I jump off the barrier where the flooded section ends. My nose is itchy. Don’t touch your face. I keep jogging on the slippery path towards the Île Saint Louis.


I reach the end of the path and jog up to the Quai d’Orsay. A tourist bus glides by. One woman with a mask on the open air level. Either the best or worst time to be here. Is this what Mann imagined? Now it's all around me. What's it like in Venice?


I take a left over the Port Royal. A man drags a bag along the footpath. He’s looking around as though for answers. I give him wide berth and take a right by the Louvre.


Arriving at the Pont des Arts there's still no one around. Half-way across the bridge I stop and look out over the river. This is where Comte jumped nearly 200 years ago. He was my age at the time. He jumped into the Seine but a Royal Guard fished him out. He wrote all his best works afterwards. There must be a message in that. One I’d better not think about for too long. Decide to start up again.


Back on the left bank I take a right towards the Eiffel Tower. Towards the 7th arrondissement. Towards my eighteen square metre studio on the rue de l’Exposition.


The annonce is coming tonight. We’ll be locked down tomorrow. Wednesday at the latest. A boon for types like me. Isolation is a writer’s natural habitat. Productivity guaranteed. I’ll finally finish my novel. Start a new one maybe. I can do everything I want except go jogging. That's why I’m here under this glaucous sheltering sky.


I run up the ramp by the Pont d’Alma and I’m done. Decide to walk back slowly. Breath the unclean but free-flowing air.


I stop at the lights and wait to cross. An old lady driving a black Audi locks eyes with me. What are you doing outside, she says with her eyes. Lady if there’s only one of us I cadn’t catch anything. And besides. This is my last chance for a while. The annonce is coming tonight. Soon we'll all be locked down. Let me jog in peace.