I have read Waiting for Godot twice. The first time was over fifteen years ago, when Samuel Beckett’s play was required reading for literature class. I remember that it was the shortest assignment and the one I spent the most time on. I read it again a year later, when I ran across it in another literature textbook. I hadn’t understood a word of this play the first time around and yet I couldn’t stop myself from reading it again.
This play bothers me in the good way that literature is supposed to bother me. I still don’t quite understand Beckett’s work, but I want to. I find myself thinking of his hapless characters, Didi and Gogo, at the oddest times. When I’m folding laundry. Waiting for an oil change at the dealership. When I wake up for the third time in one night and automatically reach for my phone to check the election results. The results are still too close to call.
“Godot is not God,” I recall my professor saying. My diploma has been framed and dusty for over a decade now and I’m still thinking about this class discussion. The play is not a theatrical crisis of faith, it’s a statement about existentialism. No wonder it pops into my mind when I’m folding laundry. How very 21st century of me: a work-at-home mother having an existential crisis over housework. Didn’t I just wash this load of towels?
“We always find something, eh Didi, to let us think we exist?”
― Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot
It is now three days after the 2020 election. I’m trying to cut down on how often I check my phone for updates. The same six states are hanging in the balance. They will be for days, I tell myself. Weeks. It’s so close, there’s definitely going to be a recount. Probably several.
I check my phone again anyway.
In March, I refreshed the website that tracked coronavirus cases on the hour. I don’t know when I stopped. June, maybe? Whenever it was that I stopped comparing our locked-down life to normal life. When I pulled my trusty daily organizer out of my purse and realized that I hadn’t even looked at it for weeks. After I stopped telling myself that this was temporary, that soon things would be back to the way they were.
Godot is not hope, I tell myself. That feels right. Didi and Gogo, these two foolish characters that have bothered me for years, must have had hope already to be able to wait and wait and…