Last night, I had a vivid dream of my mother visiting me in my living room as I watched the talking heads reveal grisly details of Sen. Gifford’s shooting. She came to the door as if 26 years hadn’t passed. She sat on the couch and I laid my head in her lap and wept. And wept. It was so healing – I didn’t need to explain, I didn’t need to hide in embarassment. I told her what a coward I am.
I heard on the news stories “why wasn’t there more security?” Since when do you need security at a Safeway grocery store parking lot? Then I remembered why I had to close my own cafe and memories flooded back – of powerlessness, of cruelty and of extreme kindness and brave neighbors and friends. You see, I closed the Got Clicks Cafe in October and it’s taken me this long to write it down and mourn losing it. So many have asked what happened and I just say “wasn’t working out financially” (which is completely true…) but I never delved into my cowardice. Shame, I suppose, I don’t know why I didn’t answer with the truth. So, mom held my head in her lap, stroked my hair, and I started to tell her-
“- there was a guy in our town – “Crazy Larry” who hated my landlord with a vengeance. He stayed outside our building all day long with mis-spelled signs spitting his hatred for all of Williamstown to see. When I asked him to stop, he would say “This has nothing to do with you, Sarah. It has to do with your landlord.” He was relentless; holding plastic swords up and getting neighbors to agree with his rhetoric. Many tooted their horns in support. An equal number yelled at him in the street. One of our local (brave) politicians asked if he could hold a “Coffee Clutch” at the cafe to speak with his constituents and I eagerly agreed. I thought maybe it would heal some wounds, help me feel more included instead of the outsider I am.
Crazy Larry showed up with his vile rhetoric. The first time he approached, he left. The second time, I asked him to leave. The third time, I put my hand on his shoulder and escorted him out of my business. “Crazy Larry” called the police on me and said I had assaulted him. Thankfully, I had 3 witnesses including one shaken elderly woman who agreed to write statements of what happened. The officer came in, told me I could be facing simple assault charges and took my written statement. After that, I shuttered the doors. Despite this man having a no stalking and no trespassing order, he knew his rights and the law better than I did. I never had the need to know it before. He knew the police are 45 minutes away – just enough time for him to park his car, shout obscenities, and move the car before the police came. He repeated it over and over. Rather than risking my reputation or my customers’ safety, I closed the doors. I had had the Williamstown Middle School kids in the cafe just the week before showing their projects and written essays on Katherine Patterson’s book – what if Larry had shown up that night? What if I had not had enough security? I had never even thought in those terms before.
I had wanted so much to teach adult computer courses, start a reading group using Skype to connect people from everywhere who had a common interest in what we were reading, drink coffee and have meaningful discussions. It all evaporated in fear. Many of my neighbors stop by my house to check on me, to use my computer the way they used to at the cafe. We all feel a loss that you can’t just express a difference of opinion without someone taking revenge on you. I wanted to create a safe haven for people who wanted to discuss ideas and didn’t need to be afraid to have a difference of opinion. We would listen to each other – Republicans, Democrats – I changed my mind on a few things, and I believe in some of my discussions, I changed some minds, too. But that’s all over with now, isn’t it?”
Mom lifted my body from the couch, looked me in the eye and said “Sarah, it is not a “place” that determines where these exchanges are expressed, it’s your heart. Change is not for the faint-hearted – you started something, go finish it.” I remember the last time my mother had that look in her eye – it was for a certain guidance counselor who said the best hope I had for work was maybe doing data entry, as if I were sentenced to prison. My mother was a quiet woman, rarely spoke out of turn, but this time, she rose out of her seat and said “Sarah is many things, but I will not have you pigeon hole her like that. When she puts her mind to it, Sarah can go out and get whatever she wants.” I was never so proud of my mother. We walked out of that office and I listened to my mother sputter for the next 45 minutes about that “narrow-minded guidance counselor.” My mom called me her “wild one” because I was restless and I wanted to do something, but I had no idea what that was. It dawned on me that my field of internet marketing hadn’t even been invented yet! Neither had cell phones, the iPhone, laptops or any of the other tools I use for business on a regular basis. I started to tell her all of these marvels of technology, about how cool my life is, about how much I love my business and the freedom it affords me and she just grinned. “Sarah, I know this already – I haven’t missed a beat!”
I awoke with the blanket wrapped wildly around me and the tv continuing its’ coverage of what happened with Sen. Gifford and all of those people. And I just started typing…