Almost Fiorentina’s post on her first day physically back at the office post-lockdown got me thinking about my own eventual physical return to my desk. And caused a lot of rambling, I ramble a lot.
I am dreading having to physically return to work, I really am. I work in a school that has children from the age of 3 to 18, and whenever I manage to get up from my desk the little ones often run up to me to hug me around the waist. How can we all live without that spontaneous, sweet joy? I know that we will have to, that I will eventually have to take the crowded bus to get to work in the centre and have little humans coughing in my face and using my telephone to talk to mommy or daddy when they’re unwell (I’ve always disinfected that, at any rate) and showing me where the wobbly tooth is. Yes, we will all have masks, though I can’t imagine getting a three-year-old to wear one in class or in the garden. Hopefully we will all be fumigated upon arrival, for those like me who take public transport and don’t want to bring those germs into a clean school. Hopefully we will have uv lights on at night to kill off whatever had escaped the daily fumigation.
Yes, I miss going to work, the 20 minute bus route from the park near my house to the centre under the two towers, the walk through the mercato di mezzo, through Piazza Maggiore, past the former home of Lucio Dalla, past the buskers, the panhandlers, the guy who waits for someone to stop and play chess with him on the ground. I miss going, but if the children aren’t in the school, it’s just an empty and dusty building and I really would prefer to work from home and be able to go to the toilet without worrying about touching anything.
I have been contacting some families about re-enrolment, and yesterday I cried for ten minutes because yet another family wrote back saying they were remaining in their home country and would not be back.
We all know that life will never be the same again, but knowing that we will not have the closure at the end of the school year that we usually do, being able to say goodbye to children, families and also colleagues who are moving on and won’t be back in September, that is what is really making this change real to me. Saying goodbye is hard sometimes, but it also brings closure. This year we won’t be able to say goodbye, say thank you, give hugs and cheek kisses to parents, hugs to the children, extracting promises to stay in touch, to come and visit if they are ever in town. This all won’t be happening. Whenever I will eventually set foot inside the school again, it will be like a ghost building, a shade of what it was, with the carnevale decorations still up and my own desk like I left it in early March, when it was still winter and staying indoors was cosy.
The school was already empty then, the first week for ski week, the second week for the first rumblings of lock-down. Those were fine, we all thought that it would pass quickly, that we could take a pause and then get on with our lives as usual. Obviously it didn’t and we won’t. I have been working from home for over two months now, and sometimes I have difficulty remembering that normal life hasn’t gone on as normal, that the shops and restaurants are closed, that the piazzas are empty and that we are almost all still in a strange kind of suspended animation.
I think that when I do eventually return to my desk, the psychological toll of *seeing* the changes to my home city will weigh heavier on me than anything else at first. I have been here for over 30 years, I have seen Piazza Maggiore in all weathers, in all conditions, with protesters, with fairs and concerts and students and tourists and pigeons and artists and children and processions and firefighters on ziplines. But now, sooner or later, I will be seeing Piazza Maggiore post-apocalypse. And I don’t know if I will ever be ready for that.