The rules of confinement
by Seth Falcon, Paris, France

When Macron announced the school closures, my son cheered and danced. A few days later, the president spoke again and we gathered around the laptop to watch the live stream. As expected, he announced a lock-down for all of France. Listening to the description of the rules, I was relieved to hear that there was an exception for exercise. I’d still be able to run.

Running is my go-to exercise. I run and think, or run and don’t think. I run alone and without music. After a run my mood is improved, sometimes new ideas arrive or a solution unfolds to a problem I’ve been wrestling with.

So now in the mornings my running routine has an extra step. I have to fill out an *ATTESTATION DE DÉPLACEMENT DÉROGATOIRE*. A self-signed hall pass to document why I’m moving about the city.

Last Monday, I was stopped by the police while running. They are doing what they can to enforce the lock-down and checking papers at random. Four of them got out of their small car. None had masks or gloves. The one with a beard approached me. I knew without being asked to provide by attestation. He asked where I lived. Numbers are hard in a foreign language. Being out of breath helped me cover the delay. He told me I was too far from my house. That in the country it was 1km, but in the city I should stay within 300 meters. I apologized. He gave me a thumbs up. I continued my run back towards home.

I didn’t run the next day. The prospect of doing laps around my block had me down and not feeling motivated. The sidewalks and streets tend to be more crowded right around our building so, in addition to feeling even more “on leash,” I worried it might be more difficult to dodge others and maintain the proper distance. I aim for six feet (1.8m) even though the guidance in France is only one meter.

That evening, an update to the rules of confinement were announced and a new attestation form was published. To my relief, it specifies a one kilometer radius for exercise activity (once per day, not lasting more than one hour). But this is enough for me to navigate a decent run around the neighborhood on the nearly empty streets.

I run in the mornings through deserted streets. The air is clean and streets are quiet. I pass a few people sometimes wearing masks. There was a man with long white hair on a bicycle. His cough didn’t sound good (but maybe it couldn’t have been so bad if he was riding a bike?). It isn’t normal, this empty quiet in the city.

My route takes me by parks gated and locked, where I sometimes pause to visit the trees. I miss dirt under my feet. How long will it be until my feet find something beneath them other than pavement, brick, wood, or tile?

Photos by Seth Falcon

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