Things To Do When You’re Jet Lagged

By Susan Harlan

photo: Susan Harlan

10:30 a.m.-9:00 p.m.

Walk along the canal and watch the gulls dip over the water – wrap your scarf around your neck – watch the joggers – sit on a bench – walk more – sit on another bench – listen to people – go to the place you are staying – fold down the bed – get undressed – sleep for a few hours – get up – get dressed – press the little button that opens the door to the building and go outside – walk up a street – turn and walk up another street – watch people drag out their Christmas trees, shedding pine needles on the sidewalk – look in lighted apartment windows (paying particular attention to bookshelves) – stop in a church and sit in the quiet smoky air – look at the fish in aquariums in a pet store – do not talk to anyone because this would be too challenging – walk up a street and down another – walk up a street and down another – drink tea in a café, outside under a heat lamp – think that the smell of cigarette smoke reminds you of when you were younger – keep your coat on –  watch people buy their groceries – watch people walk by with their children – watch people walk by with their dogs – watch people walk by with their shopping bags – pay your bill and leave – walk up a street and down another – walk up a street and down another – look at the Galettes des Rois in the windows of a patisserie – walk up a street and down another – remember your life at home – watch more people buy their groceries (a roasted chicken, cheese, some vegetables in bags) – forget your life at home – count the plants in one apartment window (12) – look into courtyards when people open the doors to their apartment buildings – watch an old woman have her hair set on rollers in a salon – try to remember to look out for cyclists – try to remember people and then forget them again – go to Monoprix to look at shampoo and soap and face cream even though you don’t need shampoo or soap or face cream – wonder why toiletries in other countries are so wonderful – walk up a street and down another – walk up a street and down another – try and fail to find a restaurant where you had dinner the last time you were here – listen to sirens (it’s always sirens that make you feel elsewhere) – sit down in a restaurant for dinner (you’re the only one there because it’s too early) – read the posters for plays in the restaurant’s windows – watch children pass on scooters outside – watch people break down boxes outside the building across the street (#25) – watch people walk by in coats – look at what they are wearing and the patterns on their scarves – wonder if their shoes are comfortable – order your dinner – eat your dinner – drink your wine – read your red Paris classique par arrondissement, which you have had for fifteen years, and try to remember the city – look at the cemeteries marked in green, with rows of little crosses – look at the arrondissements highlighted in yellow – look at the icons of famous buildings and the blue river – finish dinner and pay your bill – walk up a street and down another – walk up a street and down another – walk up a street and down another – buy coffee (Nescafé), milk, and bananas for tomorrow at Franprix – go back to the place you are staying – get undressed – sleep – wake up – sleep – wake up – sleep


Susan Harlan’s writing has appeared in venues including The Guardian US, The Paris Review Daily, The Toast, Roads & Kingdoms, The Common, The Morning News, Curbed, Queen Mob’s Tea House, Avidly, The Hairpin, Public Books, and The Awl. She teaches English literature at Wake Forest University, and her book Luggage was published with the Bloomsbury series Object Lessons in March.




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