But the unseen enemy – the angry and stubborn disease around him around the world – was a new idea and an incredible one for me. Within two hours I had moved out of the room where I was alone, at Rue Bonaparte, with a view of Saint-Sulpice, and moved in with a friend at 7, near Rue de Grenelle.
We quickly made it to the war room with the right one: coat and outerwear, strong hand washing with eau de Javel, heavy anti-virus. Rubber gloves, masks, WhatsApp groups of friends ready to gather logistics, hour by hour. It was a great boost. If I wake up at 4 p.m. With my heart, like I do every morning, I just have to watch “Corona Logistics Paris” and I know there are other people sleeping too.
To me the most immediate problem about this disease, aside from the uncertainty and the risk to human life, is separation from loved ones. I left my mother-in-law in the U.S., and my only child was far away in the French Alps, Vercors, with my husband.
I knew my son was safe. But 4 p.m. the danger left me with pictures of her pain and crying for her mother; or a war situation where, as has been the case in many situations I have covered, I have been unable to reach it for many years. I wanted it to grow from a gawky teenager into a man, apart from me. I keep the history of revenge from the beautiful Suite Française.
Should I be reduced to writing a new edition of the matchbook cover like the heroine? Will I be shut out, as I am now, carrying a record of buying a bottle of milk for the next few years?
Last Thursday, unable to cope with the anxiety of being apart from my son, I took a train to Grenoble. Trains were running a lot, and mine was the only track of the day, with links in Lyon.
In my carry-on I threw my rubber gloves – the last pair found in the Monoprix of Rue de Rennes – my masks made, which I sewed on cloth; my eight boxes of Doliprane; and my gifts St. Christopher, travel agent (sent to me by one of my iPhone members). Then I made my way to a place as beautiful as Gare de Lyon. Some travelers wear masks, gloves, and stand near others.
I arrived in Grenoble for an empty parking lot with military troops on the platform. My daughter-in-law and my son were there waiting for me and taking me to our village. Our car, weaving to the mountain pass, was the only one on the road.
I have now been refurbished in my old family’s 16th-century home, with thick walls and an empty kitchen and fireplace large enough to make dinner. It was the place where, in the happier days, I got married (on a short break from covering the Iraq war) and where, in the backyard, I would sleep for two. Three hours in an orange blossom, on a blanket with my baby. son, look up to heaven.
It’s been ten years since I’ve been here.
But the mountain was still unchanged, and there were no houses – old towels, towels, squeaky beds, even a tube I had left in the bathroom 12 years before.
Minors: They always look fair in the past. The local farmer, Maurice, who married us (he is also mayor), still owns his cow and still stands at dawn. The elephant guard who kept the rabbit, where I took my son to play, is now dead; but the woman who sells fresh eggs is still sitting in her garden in the sunshine. As I walked, I passed the graves of the older brothers who fought in the Revolution during the war, and the Germans shot a few days before its end. What a great lack of civil war it is now when we all fight one enemy, one unseen.