Updated: Feb 24, 2021
20 seconds to find my sunglasses
I was heading through the regular security checkups at the Charles de Gaules airport. I wasn’t preparing myself for anything special. Suddenly I saw two of the security members stuff whispering to each other. They told me to wait on the side for a few minutes. They asked me to take off my shoes. The woman looked attentively at each of the items in my bag. It wasn’t clear. Why me? it was a much more -meticulous security research than the regular one. Did I say something wrong before? Was I behaving suspiciously? “It’s a random choice” someone explained to me later. Don’t take it personally.” When my bag was handed to me again, I opened my sunglasses case just to find it was empty. Did I forget my glasses at home, or did the woman put it somewhere on the tray and forget to put in back? I assumed I left them at home. Following the unpleasant exam, I took a stroll through the Duty-Free and sensed the different perfumes that lifted up my mood again. The thought that I might have left my sunglasses in the security, continued to disturb me. I went down again to the first floor and asked if they have found by any chance a pair of sunglasses, “No, no sunglasses in lost property.” Was the quick answer. A week later I was in my home city, Tel- Aviv. I have been living in France over the last few years. Whenever I am back, it feels natural to just stroll along the places which are so familiar to me as if to rediscover the city again. It has undergone quite a few transformations in the last few months. Cafes I used to go to were shut down, and replaced by a Grocery store or a cloth shop. At the same time, I was equally surprised to discover an old district in the south of Tel Aviv, Florentine which used to be rundown, and deserted, over the years,it has become more and more fashionable. This alternative quarter was drawing all the young people to settle down there. It has continued to develop and blossom. It was delightful to wander on the sunny day of mid-February in the Spices Market, buying different leaves such as jasmin and chamomile. I gazed at the colourful chairs on the pavements, which looked like a kind of funny decoration. It was one of those mellow moments where you can simply enjoy the lightness of being. Yet this time behind the bright blue sky you couldn’t help but sense the hidden grey clouds which were about to announce a storm to come. The news showered in the media about the first cases of Coronavirus in Europe were becoming more and more alarming. It was everywhere, in the social media, television, in magazines online. It felt like it was overwhelming your thoughts, threatening to interfere within your inner peace. We watched the Friday news on Television. The “Corona boat” they titled the Cruise ship, the one that was held on Japan’s Coast. Some passengers were infected there. It was as if the virus was the alien, the undesired element which has found a way to filter itself to the universe. Breaking violently through the systems, sneakily from the borders from Wuhan in China, and spreading itself to other countries. The nightmare that everyone was concerned about was starting to materialize. A few days later I heard the Venice Carnival had to be interrupted abruptly. Worrying rumors of people falling severely ill from the unknown virus were fast looming. When I saw the images of the Venetian theatrical masks being replaced by the medical ones it was such a surreal vision as if I was watching a science fiction film that has become the new reality. Is it a good decision to come back to Paris in those troubled times? Maybe it’s an emergency case. The thought of passing through the airport with a mask, being confronted with an infected space, gave me the shivers. I had decided not to postpone my flight. There is work waiting for me. I will start to teach again after the winter holidays. I could not have imagined how far the hilarious scenario of the Coronavirus will surpass my imagination. I didn’t know what to think, like everyone else, it was the first time in my lifetime I was confronted with an invisible foe who tilted itself in the Corona =the crown. As if it was a tiny emperor who knew how to handle humanity in an unexpected way, creating deliberately a chaos. With all the progress of the new technology, people were feeling undefeatable, careless about their environment. The nature has decided to manifest its power, destroying their stability. Until now enemies were real, they were humans with weapons. Now the war is against an unknown, mysterious adversary without a form or a shape, and the battle has reached another level where you must learn to protect yourself in ways you haven’t thought before.
I remembered suddenly the "Metamorphoses" of Kafka. How a man is transformed into a giant insect. Even his own family had to isolate themselves from him. This virus originally was conceived from, eating a pangolin or a bat in a food market in Wuhan. There where speculations about its source, and how it burst. It was as if the relationship between the human and the animal was a metaphor. Who is the strong one, and who will survive? The roles have been reversed and now it’s the small insignificant bug who will rule, imposing it’s rejected presence. There are certainly different meanings for Kafka’s story. The Antihero who menaces the bureaucracy, by changing the established orders, and there are other interpretations for the well-known tale. But right now, all I could think about was how did the human race become so vulnerable from an element it wasn’t concerned about before, and how it manages to revenge. People have to confine themselves in their flats, for 14 days I was told that if I wish for some reason to return to Israel, coming from abroad I will have to isolate myself. Back to Paris Paris appeared (I wasn’t aware yet from the worse to come) relatively calm and seemed to manage the situation well. There were people with masks seen in the streets, and the Metro was much less crowded. But the Cafes and Restaurants were open and packed as usual. I was walking in the street Sedaine, a long ,narrow hidden street, not far from the Bastille square, on Friday late morning, to a coffee shop that was exactly my taste. An intimate, cozy atmosphere. “Paul et Rimbaud”. The Cafe’s name, a tribute to the famous poets from the 19th century: Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud who have marked the French and the worldwide literature, was already a promising invitation to come inside. I discovered this place recently. I have read about it somewhere by chance, a hearty recommendation I took a seat in one of the comfortable, originally padded chairs, enjoying the relaxing music and the pleasant colours brightening up the room. Especially green and light brown were dominating. The sight of the many books on the shelfs, the plants as the aroma of the fresh coffee and the baked cookies were creating an harmonious feeling.
Not so many people were sitting around and they were all concentrated in their computers, reading, writing. I felt safe there. like I was landing in my splendid Island. It was an inspiring place and my mind was filling with new ideas. I have visited the Café two weeks before my flight to Tel -Aviv. It was becoming my favorite one, and I have returned there a couple of times. As I approached it, I was relieved to find it was still standing and open. It felt like we were just after an earthquake and the day after you are not sure if you’d find the world as it was yesterday. Another famous book came to my mind “The world of yesterday” by Stefan Zweig. A masterpiece. The deep, melancholic description of a romantic, blissful world that was washed away by the rise of the Third Reich. It was a sunny day, while I was sitting in the Café, by the window enjoying the warm ray of lights, I reminded myself that I have no sunglasses. I have checked at home. They were not there. It is probably in the Airport where I have forgotten them, or could be somewhere else. There were quite smart and fitted me well. I have regretted I didn’t find it. Only a pair of sunglasses, I comforted myself. Maybe after sitting here, I will go to some shops to see if I can find a new pair. I was going to the bathroom. When I started to wash my hands, I remembered that I have to count 20 seconds according to the advice from Health specialists in order to disinfect them the right way. While I was counting, I had the time to look closely at all the objects that were surrounding me. As If caught in a dream, black sunglasses with the reflection of red in the frames were laying on the shelf beside the tap water. Without a doubt, I knew they were mine. The ones I thought I have lost forever. I was so thrilled; it was a sort of a little miracle that has occurred. In a metropolis like Paris, where it’s rare to retrieve any belonging. I recall the many times I left books, umbrellas, gloves in various places, never to be found again when I came back to reclaim. Almost three weeks have passed since I have forgotten them. And they were waiting for me peacefully. It was quite an optimistic end under the shadow of such unnerving days. The manager of the Café, a tall, thin woman with a short haircut, and distinctive facial features, who looked like a classical French mime actress was smiling at me when I told her the story. “Yes, this is the place where we leave the objects of our customers. I am glad you have found it” When I stepped out of the Café, I wore my black sunglasses, the rays of sunlight were surprisingly hot for beginning of March, they were dazzling. May the spring begin, I sent a wish to the sky.
By Niva Josef