Copyright is held by the author.
HANNAH ARRIVES at The Cappuccino Cup chilled by the autumn wind, eager to step inside.
Opening the door, she inhales roasted coffee beans and cinnamon rolls — that’s what Heaven smells like, she thinks.
A long line inches closer to the counter. She takes her place at the end of it and looks around her, trying to spy the friend she is meeting.
It is a Saturday, so she is not surprised by the packed-in crowd.
She also suspects that some people there, like her, might have come from the Climate Action protest march that took place several blocks over.
It’s hard to tell who, exactly, is an activist warrior like herself.
Without their placards, tambourines, drums and megaphones, everyone looks so ordinary.
Scanning the crowd, she spots her friend, Jenna, sitting in the far corner at a tiny round table.
She is talking with the man they’d met at the march: Johnathan, the handsome high school art teacher.
He is no longer holding his two papier mache Earths — one had been green and blue and radiant, the other grey and lifeless, presumably murdered by Climate Change — but the big button on his jacket says “SAVE THE PLANET” so it’s still evident which team he’s on.
Jenna notices Hannah looking at her and waves.
Hannah nods in response, indicating that once she gets her coffee, she will be right over.
Hannah glances around some more, wondering who else might be there that she knows from the march.
That’s when she sees . . . them.
That trio from the march.
That blonde woman and the two men. The ones who’d dared show up at a climate action march with climate denial signage! Signs that said things like: Climate Change is a hoax! Don’t believe the lies!
Hannah had tried talking sense into them — to no avail, naturally. Then her anger had gotten the better of her, and she’d sputtered and stalked off.
Oh, God. She hadn’t expected to see them again — certainly not this soon after their confrontation.
What should she do? What was the etiquette of this situation? Should she approach them and try again? Should she ignore them? Should she leave?
Her scalp prickles and sweat breaks out beneath her cotton tee, her fleece sweater; her Gortex jacket.
The coffee shop now feels too hot, too close.
What if they spot her? What if they confront her this time? What should she say? Really, she needs to better prepared for such occurrences.
She needs a prepared statement — something she keeps handy in her pocket, for large family gatherings and moments like these, when she is confronted with people who seem so opposed to the necessity of environmental healing. She needs to rehearse this speech at home, in front of the mirror, so she isn’t so flustered.
Hannah takes a few deep breaths — and covertly eyes them.
Look at them, she thinks, sitting there talking as if they don’t have a care in the world. And why would they? Their precious fossil fuels are still pumping out into the atmosphere unabated. Politicians and corporations are on their side, resistant to change. Of course they would be happy. The status quo is with them. They hardly need to lift a finger!
The woman in the wool sweater starts laughing at something the older white man in the denim shirt says and Hannah strains to overhear.
What is so funny? Are they laughing at the climate protesters from earlier, at the futility of their actions, at Hannah for being so irate and confrontational? What had she said to them? Oh, yes: “Have it your way. Drown the world. See if I care!”
Then she had stomped off like an impetuous child, so consumed with anger and the need to get away that she’d tripped over her own feet while crossing the street. Her face had turned tomato red. She was almost 50 years old, an accomplished and confident adult — and yet there she’d stood, blushing! Her cheeks had radiated heat like an atmosphere too full of carbon dioxide, trapping in the heat of the sun. She’d been so relieved to be back over on her side, back with the proper protesters, the people who got her, the ones who understood.
Jenna and Johnathan had listened to her emotional recount and patted her back, commiserating: well, you tried, but unfortunately there is no way forward with people like that.
The woman laughs again and Hannah wants the woman’s laugh to be evil and nefarious, befitting her status as her new arch nemesis — but the woman’s laugh is delightful, actually. The kind of robust, hearty laugh that lifts one’s spirits.
Who is this person? For a moment, Hannah experiences a deep curiosity. Who is this person? How did she come to be here, in this coffee shop, with the other two men, as part of a climate denial team?
Hannah thinks of the planning that went into creating their signs (for she has also experienced the same type of agonized decision making: which slogan? Which colours?).
Even the decision to show up: did the woman have to work up the nerve? Was it easy for her? What propelled her out of her home and into the streets?
Hannah tries to come up with a story to explain why that woman is as she is. What happened in her life to make her care so much about keeping things as they are? Even when science and one’s lived reality so clearly says that it must change?
It is a viewpoint so against her own that Hannah can hardly stand to explore it.
A part of her wishes she could say to the woman: “tell me. Tell me why.” But the woman is hardly going to open up to the woman who yelled at her in the street earlier. Maybe Hannah should start by saying “I’m sorry?” But why should she apologize?
Hannah can feel her heart hammering again. There is no way she is going to go over to a group of climate deniers and apologize for getting upset that their stubborn, nonsensical beliefs stand in the way of progress.
The very thought of even attempting to do so has her so shaken that, when it’s her turn, she messes up her order, forgetting key instructions — and doesn’t even realize it until she has paid and the cup is in hand.
She stares down at her non fair-trade coffee with cow’s milk in a disposable cup and thinks: how did life get so complicated?
Was there ever a time when it wasn’t so complicated?
Jenna calls her name loudly and Hannah looks up.
That woman, her new arch nemesis, also looks up — and, across the crowded coffee shop, their eyes lock.
Oh no. She’s been spotted.