~Rien à Faire, A Part of the Covid Memoir~

Rien à faire // Nothing to do

‘Rien à faire’

This line is the first opening line of the French play En Attendant Godot, Waiting for Godot, whose basic premise is the endless wait for a character that never arrives. The title which is highlighted in gerund form further supports the idea of an endless and indefinite wait. In many ways, the play mirrors the current pandemic, a wait with no definite expected end in sight.

I went recently to close my classroom for the school year. When a teacher closes their room, they take down posters and learning aides on the walls, declutter surfaces, unplug units, everything to leave the room spotless for maintenance purposes over the summer. This is good, except in this case, the end of our school year came earlier than usual. My chalk board which had still not been wiped off, still had the date Friday the 13th. March. Roughly seven weeks earlier, I was here in this classroom assuring kids that the virus wouldn’t be bad enough to send them home for the year. This was no longer March but May. There were no students and no activity in the building outside the main office where the principal and staff were, waiting on faculty to be done cleaning up their classrooms.

The recurrent idea of having to wait while having nothing to do, rien à faire, in the Play, plays out in reality having been in quarantine for a total of eight weeks. What options are there for staying home when all the stores or spaces of leisure have been closed down as well? Quarantine was like a bubble bath of bad news, anxiety and suppressed sighs. A few days ago, news of residents of Michigan carrying assault style rifles to their state house to demand the end of lock down shook me. I personally think that there is a secret fantasy attached to the wearing of masks for villians and superheros that we see on TV; and so to be able to turn things over their heads while maintaining some anonymity with a mask is a secret fantasy that I believe some people would love to act out in reality. The drama and acuteness of the images of a dozen men in masks carrying guns just to protest lockdown was striking and cinematic. Like if anyone wanted an end to lock down, what happened to dialogues and petitions? Also were they the only ones whose lives had come to a halt in this situation? Who were they going to shoot and what would shooting anyone do in the grand scheme of things? Do bullets deliver vaccines? The idiocy of the situation heightened what the real problem with America is for me. Today May 5, I read another story of a Family Dollar worker in the same State Michigan who got shot in the head for doing his job of asking another person to wear her face mask. The White House’s treatment and minimization of the pandemic is not the rot that is at the center of America’s problems. The pandemic only further garnishes the worm eaten apple that America already is. A place where guns replace communication, cries for help and temperance. And in all of this, is it meaningful to ask where is God(ot) is? In the play, the character of God (ot ) never appears, though the characters await this entity. The characters never really find a solution or resolution to whatever or whoever they await. They are given no answers, no remedies, no alternatives. They stay in their incomprehensible and meaningless states until the play ends.

Returning to reality, I feel like the fact that the gravity of a pandemic has not yet succeeded in separating humans who are capable to complex thinking from turning to their guns for solutions shows that nothing ever under this universe could curb shootings in America if laws are not activated.

As a high school teacher, I must admit that like many Americans, the imminent fear of getting shot is baggage I move and basically wear with me every. Single. day. The day I received training on how to handle the situation in case a gun man entered the school I work at was the day my paranoia overflew the brim of the small container that I held it in. As a normal part of my life, I live with paranoia. I look over my shoulder in empty parking lots, I carefully avoid confronting the kids in my class I consider emotionally unstable against my better judgement and values, and I ensure every single night if the latch in my front door is actually in place before I go to bed. This is a place where after all, you can still get shot in your own home. I also always think out ways I would escape public spaces if ever I was caught in a shoot out. Though I have nothing doing in my quarantined situation, rien à faire, I feel better staying home than continually being on the exposed battle grounds that we wrongfully call public spaces in America.

Published by Efua R. Armstrong

Efua is from Ghana and is interested in society and culture as well as conversations on gender and sexuality. While sitting through a speech by a professor at Kenyon College, I agreed with the idea that the limitations of the human mind aren't necessarily burdens but gifts! I couldn't agree more! I am curious and love to process and reexamine information. I also have absolutely no restraints in admitting that I don't have all the answers or that I am still thinking about something! Go ahead and leave me a message!

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