Over coffee at Starbucks, Penny and I talk about our differing points of view.
I don’t start with the obvious: We’re at a store which I have been actively boycotting. It’s in Prairie Village, not Pennsylvania, to be sure. She works at the place which is why we’re having coffee there. I would not have otherwise chosen to break my pledge.
She tells me that when she decided to work as a barista, she chose this particular location to challenge herself. It draws its clientele from a conservative base — which we both interpret as meaning supporters of the current administration. She says she wanted to force herself to see the humanity of people with a differing perspective from hers.
I tell her she’s a better man than I am, Gunga Din. I don’t mention the racist manager at that Pennsylvania Starbucks. We do murmur about the president’s misogyny, and his disparagement of Muslims. We shake our heads at the increase in hate crimes about which we hear on the news most every night. I think about my hostess for the week, my one remaining Conservative friend, if you don’t count my ex-husband and my second-oldest sister. She asks, “That’s not Joyce, is it?” and I shake my head.
We talk about my family then, and which of them she knows from the two of my 300 weddings which she photographed. After that quick sojourn down memory lane, we veer to safer subjects, or seemingly so. From talk of her recent decision to return to college and the scholarship she’s won, we somehow stroll over to the subject of artists putting donation buttons on their websites.
She’s in favor; I’m philosophically opposed to doing it myself, which she suggests as a way of making money on my blog. It’s clear that I think of such endeavors as tantamount to begging. She has a different thought. She sees art, including writing, as a contribution to the healing of society. The donation buttons, the Go-fund-me campaigns, she considers support of the effort made by artists towards the betterment of the world.
We fall silent for a while, lost in our differences perhaps or maybe just drinking our tea before the ice melts. I notice the time. I rise; we embrace. She raises her phone to take a quick selfie and then I’m in my rental car and moving away, with the light of the afternoon sun falling soft across my windshield. As I cross town to my scheduled home-visit of a five-year old client, I turn on the radio and listen to the news of deaths in Gaza. I sit at a red light, lost in a sudden conviction that I have failed to understand something crucial.
When the light changes, I move forward, leaving Kansas behind without a backward glance.
It’s the fifteenth day of the fifty-third month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.