The problem with having weekly explosive arguments in the City Hall foyer is that it gives you a reputation. A bad one.
The kids catcall you on the streets, and when you respond (angrily, of course), they record you on their little hand-held gadgets and call you a Karen, whatever that is.
The adults invite you to baby showers and weddings and dinners only reluctantly, and they arrange themselves in little groups with their backs to you. They talk about you in loud whispers, and you get the sense that they're hoping for you to flip, so they have an excuse to kick you out of their little gossipy-club.
And the security men at the City Hall? Well, they know you by name, and they're quite familiar with dragging you out. You go to dinner with three of them every Thursday, and gripe about the mayor and how he never gets anything done.
And the worst part of being the Screaming Lady in the Foyer is the way your husband acts. You don't care about him, not really- divorce is long and messy, and the gossiping ladies don't need any more ammunition- but he, unfortunately, is a spineless wimp. Therefore, you have to deal with everything on your own, with your husband watching from the sidelines. He's never once joined you in a shrieking match with the mayor.
Plus, your own children have the nerve to tell you to 'dial it down.' That they're getting a 'reputation,' and they don't like it.
Please. You ignore them, like any self-respecting mother.
So you have a reputation- a terrible one. You tell yourself you don't care, but it rankles you. All you try to do is improve the city, and all you get for it is backlash.
This carries on for a while, until your kicked-puppy husband, surprisingly, comes up with a halfway decent idea- gaining more supporters. You think about it for a bit, then proceed to carry it out, taking all of the credit along the way.
You don't offer him a word of thanks- why should you? When you make dinner every night, you don't hear a thank-you from his side of the table. It's only fair.
You stand on a street corner, with printed-up flyers you stole from one of those hippie sites. You wave them. You shout at people walking along.
You get a lot of strange stares. One woman even tugs her child on the other side of her, away from you. You tell yourself you don't care, and continue waving and shouting.
A woman stops, finally. Right beside you. You lower your windmilling arm and eye her, slightly out of breath.
"Can I see one of those flyers?" she asks. Her voice is soft, and pure, and it somehow seems to match the long coat she's wearing, even though it's only slightly chilly- it's white, and impossibly clean, and it goes all the way to her toes. She looks like a dark-haired cherub.
You extend it to her, wary; she takes it. You tuck your hands into your pockets. It's chilly, and you've spent the day outside.
The girl skims it, intently, and then she looks up. "It sounds like a worthy cause. But- and pardon me if I sound rash- why this, of all things?"
"What do you mean, 'of all things?'"
It comes out more hostile then you mean it to, but then again, you've spent years in countless shouting matches. Being angry is almost a habit.
She takes it in stride. "What led you to this? There's many problems in the world- why this one?"
You start to reply; you don't even know what you'll say. In all likelihood it would've been something cutting, but something stops you. Her eyes, perhaps- the earnestness in them. How she looks sincerely interested. How long it's been since anybody's been interested.
You find yourself noticing she's around your age. Thirty-something. She reminds you of someone; a girl, maybe, waiting in line at the coffee shop, or someone across from you on the subway, looking down at their phone. You can't quite place it.
You tear your mind back to the question and blurt out something blunt. "There doesn't have to be a reason to do something. Can't you just do it?"
She laughs. Normally, you'd find her high-pitched laugh irritating and chipmunk-esque, but this time it pulls at your lips. You shake off the laugh and cross your arms defensively.
She smiles warmly. "Think back. What led you here, to this street corner? To all the fights in the foyer?"
"I don't have to tell you any-"
You stop yourself and pinch your eyes shut. She's the only person that's even stayed on the same side of the street as you; you tell yourself fiercely to hear her out.
"They're everywhere," you say crossly, tucking your arms in tighter. "Just look around. That's what led me here."
"You saw them?"
"You pitied them?"
You shake your head, unable to hide your irritation. "Pity's not helpful. I just wanted to get them off the streets; is that so complicated?"
"Not at all," she says, her eyes twinkling. "What's your name?"
As it's coming out of your mouth, you wonder why you're even telling her. "It's Saundra."
"Mine's Leigh. It's great to meet you."
Despite trying not to, you have to wonder how she can make something so generic sound so intriguing.
"You too," you say stiffly, biting your lip. Leigh shifts her weight, somehow making her eyes twinkle even more. It's quite distracting. The flyers are loose in your hands.
After a suitable amount of awkward silence passes, Leigh offers you a full-on-teeth-showing beam. "Coffee?"
The weird thing is, you know what she means. Somehow.
"There's a great shop down the street," you say. She offers you a white-coated arm- to link with yours, you suppose.
You shake your head tightly and set off down the street- you hear her silvery laugh ring out behind you. It brings a smile to your face. You wonder what her drinking coffee will look like.
You wonder why you're looking forward to seeing it.
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Hi Kate. I thought your story was very interesting. You have some great descriptions throughout your piece and I think you've created really great characters. I love Saundra. There's something about her grouchy, stubbornness that's very charming. I don't know if I'd call her a Karen though. Maybe you intended her to be one but I don't really get that vibe. Also, it's not clear what she's fighting for. Is it the homeless people? That was my assumption. If you made her cause more clear then I think it'd help with painting a clearer picture ...
you nailed all the issues with this story ;-; i kept tryna put the homeless-people issue in, but every time i did it didn't come out natural, so here we are. i'm not the best at writing karens, but i'll try to improve on that! thanks for the support and for following me <3 you're the best
she's a karen, that's for sure, but is she a good karen or a bad karen? i dunno. maybe you do?