By Janvier Nsengiyumva
It’s April again but the rain is falling with the tears of loneliness here on a deserted campus. I have memories of students walking to class, studying in Dion and noise that never sleeps on the weekend. But while the grass grows and the beautiful spring calls, the absence of students causes pain to my heart, I long for someone to share the experience of a beautiful changing season.
I am one of the students who received permission to stay on campus. Coronavirus has left me trapped where each floor in Aubin Hall is dark. With nobody walking through the floors the motion-detecting lights remain off. I leave my room to walk into yet another dark floor whose light flickers on as I enter.
My experience has been like walking through empty spaces. The parking lots are empty. I don’t spend time outside unless it’s warm and sunny when I take a walk alone listening to music. Sometimes I feel like I am Will Smith in the film “I am Legend” except I don’t have a dog.
Keeping social distance here is not difficult because there is nobody to get near to. The only time I get to see more than one student is when I go to the dining hall at Alliot for lunch and dinner.
The school has done a great job creating an environment that enhances social distancing. For one thing, students are not allowed to eat together. When you walk into the dining area, you notice all the chairs are stacked and there is caution tape wrapped around the dining area. A small whiteboard instructs students to stay six feet apart, sanitize their hands and put on a glove before walking into the kitchen to serve themselves with a takeout container that they carry back to their room. You can’t sit around the fireplace near the bookstore because the whole area is being quarantined. Einstein’s is closed and nothing is active in Dion.
I feel lonely sometimes, but I keep myself busy. I do push-ups everyday, teach myself how to play guitar, write poems, and most importantly study hard. The longing for people still haunts me everyday. In fact, it’s teaching me something about human connection. Such absence makes me desire human presence more intensely. I feel more connected than ever, and it frustrates me because I begin to realize the everyday connection we all take for granted.
Maybe social distancing will teach us about those experiences we take for granted when we are so distracted looking at cell-phones, and not paying attention to people around us because we’re busy worrying about ourselves. Maybe, we will learn to appreciate humanity more; to look up and see the sky. Maybe social distancing will restore human consciousness to engage in the world of openness.