“That woman who yelled at us is here,” Loreen tells her group. “Don’t look!”
But of course Ahmed and Ron look — their heads swivel around like bar stools.
“Hey,” Loreen raps her knuckles on the table, asserting her Natural Born Leadership. She knows — and they know — she’s the leader of this group. This group is her creation. Without her starting it up on Facebook, there wouldn’t even be a Climate Deniers United. They wouldn’t be together.
Ergo, they should listen to her!
She raps her knuckles on the table again, hard enough to make their spoons rattle in their saucers and to slurp a bit of coffee out of a mug and onto the table top.
Ahmed and Ron turn back to face her.
“I saw her,” Ahmed says.
“Yes,” says Ron, excited. “Over by the window with that Hot Blonde and The Professor.”
“A professor?” Ahmed gets ready to turn his head again.
But Loreen reaches over and places her hand on his arm — an invasion of privacy she knows he won’t like, but what other choice does she have? Her knuckles are sore now and she doesn’t want to raise her voice.
“We don’t want to start a scene,” she advises in a hissed whisper.
“Don’t we?” Ron whispers back. “I thought that was precisely why we came today.” Or else why bring climate denial signage to a Climate Action protest march?
“That was then,” she says, referring to half an hour ago, when they had stood alongside the Climate Action protesters, holding signs they’d made that said: Climate Change is a hoax! Don’t believe the lies!
(Ah, their bravery: the three of them standing up against thousands! As her mom used to say, it takes a lot of courage to go against the grain and take a stand for what you believe in — or in the case of climate change science, a stand against what you don’t believe in).
“And this is now,” she finishes. “Now we are in a restaurant.”
A cafe, to be more precise. The Cappuccino Cup.
And it is crowded, claustrophobic with people in a way that had seemed cozy five minutes ago.
Now it feels . . . volatile.
Probably many in attendance are like that woman. Like her, they’ve come from that same Climate Action march. It had happened downtown, only a few blocks over.
Loreen’s eyes dart around, doing what she should’ve done earlier: scoping out the boisterous Saturday cafe crowd for hostility.
Without their protest signs, it’s so hard to tell who is normal and who is an activist, but she spots a few tell-tale giveaways: an I LOVE MY MOMMA (EARTH) button pinned to a jean jacket lapel; a tee shirt that says I’M NON-GMO.
They probably should’ve purchased their coffee further away from the city’s epicentre. Or they should’ve picked a place these hippy-dippy types would be less likely to go to: a fast food joint, perhaps.
But no way is she leaving now. She is not going to be made to feel ‘lesser than’. She has every right to be here and finish her coffee as she pleases.
She is not going to let that woman and her ilk scare them away.
“What should we do?” asks Ahmed.
“Finish our coffee.”
“What if she comes over?” asks Ron.
“I doubt it. She already said what she had to say.” Loreen remembers it vividly: the woman’s shrill voice rising at them: “fine, have it your way, drown the world!”
“Yeah, but what if — ?”
Loreen gives them both her best ‘stern nurse who will brook no argument’ look. It’s a look she perfected as office manager until her early retirement.
Ron sighs and picks up his coffee.
Ahmed looks away and out of the window — but he also takes a calming sip.
“That woman is here,” Hannah tells Jenna and Jonathan, when she finally makes her way through the crowd with her coffee and takes the seat they saved for her at the small, round table in the cafe’s corner.
“That woman and the two men from the march. The climate deniers.”
“What?” Jenna is instantly outraged and starts looking over Hannah’s shoulder to find the trio and give them a stern how-dare-you glare.
“Don’t look!” Hannah jerks her free arm out to block Jenna’s view of them. “I already made eye contact. By accident! The look she gave me could have melted my face off. She was not happy to see me.”
“Well, you did yell at them,” Johnathan says, and Jenna redirects her how-dare-you glare his way.
It’s the first bump in the road of their ongoing flirtation and Johnathan tries to course correct with a rational explanation.
“People don’t like being yelled at,” he raises his hands placatingly. “I work with teenagers, remember?” He is a high school art teacher. “Yelling gets you nowhere fast.”
“They were being unreasonable,” Hannah says defensively. “And I didn’t know what else to do.”
It has been on her mind, though, ever since the conflict happened at the protest. How else could she have approached them? Was there a way that didn’t involve frustrated yelling?
And ever since she spotted that woman in the cafe, she has been flustered, wondering: what should she do now? How should she handle this now? Is there something she can do right now to fix or transform things?
But it feels so unfixable! It feels like a stalemate, with absolutely no way through. No common ground to stand on.
“With my students, it helps to build a rapport with them. Get to know them as people.”
“How are we supposed to ‘get to know them as people’?” Jenna isn’t letting him off the hook so fast. “Pretend we’re from the paper and start interviewing them? ‘Hey, tell us your life story so we can build a rapport with you and somehow make you change your ways’?”
“Well, you could start a conversation,” Johnathan takes a sip of his coffee, endeavouring now to be jocular and cool. “But I wouldn’t say you’re from the paper. No one does print media anymore.”
Jenna starts to tap her nails on the table.
Hannah knows her friend of 20+ years well enough to know what that means: Jenna is scheming.
And this is the last thing Hannah needs: her friend cooking up some plan to stage a ‘climate denial’ themed intervention in order to impress this new guy she’s met.
It sounds, she thinks, like a ridiculous premise for a rom-com.
Picture this: A Hot Blonde, newly divorced mother of two, meets a Hot Professor Type Art Teacher at a Climate Action March and, wanting to impress him . . . does what?
Hannah considers the possibilities…
• she poses as a Climate Denier blogger, ingratiates herself with a tableful of Climate Deniers, and through the sheer force of her wit and charisma tricks them into denouncing their science denying ways on the spot? OR:
• she sneaks into the back room, ‘borrows’ a Cappuccino Cup work uniform, and, while pretending to clean their table, drops some climate science pamphlets into their laps? OR:
• she announces she’s become some sort of cyber geek, “hot wires” her phone to ‘tap into’ the phones of the trio of climate deniers, and, from tables away, without them being any wiser, hacks into to all their Facebook pages and updates them to say: “The Climate Action March today has totally changed my mind! I believe in climate science now!” And she posts links to a multitude of climate action websites.
Hannah imagines the trio of climate deniers getting a flurry of ping notifications, each taking out their phones in consternation only to see, to their utmost confusion, a series of outraged Facebook comments from their followers: “How could you? We thought you were one of us! Betrayal!”
Well, she sighs, taking a sip of the coffee. Those are fun fantasies.
But they are also ridiculous. (And, if she’s being honest — mean spirited.)
None of those scripts are going to play.
And that is part of the problem. She has no other script for this.
There is no other script to play, other than the one she already read through, the one where she loses her temper and starts yelling.
Movies have taught her many useless things over the years:
• how to proclaim your love in an airport,
• that car chases never seem to be hampered by rush hour, and
• that women who work in offices can afford a new outfit for every scene. (Why don’t they ever wear the same thing twice?!)
But one thing she wishes they’d taught her is what the various options are when the people who are against climate action are calmly sipping coffee in the same cafe.
This, she decides, is a grave oversight.
Someone needs to get busy writing that script right now, because we could all surely use some guidance!
Loreen thinks they’ve done pretty good, sitting there relaxing and drinking their coffees, paying no one no mind. She ignores that woman and her friends in the corner. They have ceased to exist to her.
But it reminds her a bit of high school, so many moons ago, doesn’t it? That fake carelessness, pretending you aren’t noticing that the “cool kids” are making fun of you from their table in the cafeteria.
That was eons ago, of course — but the body-memory still sticks, and no matter how much she tries, she can’t shake it.
However, she thinks they’ve done pretty good, all in all. She’s proud of them. Of Ron and Ahmed. They’ve stuck it out and made their point.
Loreen’s about to suggest they finally call it a day — when she looks up — and sees that woman is coming towards her!
Panic floods her from top to toe. She hadn’t expected this to happen — again! She hadn’t considered the woman would dare to be so bold — twice!
The woman speaks to her:
“Excuse me, but you dropped your sweater.”
What? Had she?
The woman bends over and retrieves Loreen’s Guatemalan wool sweater from the floor. It must’ve slipped from the back of her chair. It’s so crowded (and hot) in the cafe. Someone brushing past must’ve knocked it over.
Loreen accepts it.
“Uh . . . thank you.”
The woman heads back to her table.
Loreen adjusts her grip on her sweater, getting ready to put it back on. That’s when she realizes there’s something underneath the sweater!
It’s a napkin, folded up. She unfolds it.
They’ve written on it in blue pen. It says: “I’m sorry I yelled. I wish we could understand each other better. “
It is signed: “Hannah, Jenna, Johnathan. “
Loreen looks up at Ahmed and Ron. She turns the note around so they can see it, though she knows they have followed the proceedings with eagle eyes, and have already decoded the note upside down.
They are as stunned as she is.
An apology note? And an invitation? They had not expected this!
Is it a trick?
Together they stretch their necks and look over to the table in the corner.
Ahmed, Ron and Loreen look at Hannah, Jenna and Johnathan.
And Hannah, Jenna and Johnathan look back.
It’s not a trick?
The invitation is in the air.
The possibilities are in the air.