The Summer of My Discontent: June 2020 by any Other Name

audrey wells

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Photo by Engin Akyurt on Unsplash

Some days stick out like a bruised thumb in spite of being otherwise ordinary. 

Although come to think of it that particular day was too damn hot even for late June in Sacramento.

Folks here like to chirp “But it’s a dry heat!” and other such ridiculous-isms I can barely stomach. 

Leave it to the good and well-meaning River-City old guard to try and make the best out of a real turd aka The “Summer-In-The-Big-Tomato situation.

A National turning point in less than 10 minutes

The aftermath of witnessing George Floyd’s brutal murder by a police officer on Live TV while he begged for air and his mother over twenty-dollars — was raw and rage-driven.

Nine-despicable minutes revealed the lies we need to believe or tell ourselves so we can live with injustice and racial disparity. 

In less than ten minutes decades upon decades of repression, humiliation, hopelessness, and righteous anger roiled then exploded—gathering mass and momentum—as we witnessed the life choked out of Mr. Floyd and he suffocated before our horrified eyes.

Racism and Hate breathed Life and Death into a rolling, roiling tangled ball of human misery as its heartbreaking mass grew exponentially.

 The downhill nature of its trajectory—and size—soon the size of our actual world is now burning from the inside out in June of 2020.

It’s June 2020, month 3 or is it 4? of a Coronavirus Global Pandemic yet President Law and Order, Mr. Only I can Fix This… denies, denies, denies.

Everything.

It’s June 2020 and Every Day Is Anything But Ordinary

Looking toward the roll-up door from my shop desk I see a tall, young man, dressed in loosely fit threads —lingering and hem-hawing just outside the latched gate. 

He was by himself.

I was also by myself unless you count my two shrimpy shop-dogs Oscar and Clementine, so there was that.

It appeared he wasn’t going away yet appeared unwilling to make an actual effort to share his intentions so guess that meant it was time for me to break the ice.

Hey there! Can I help you? I called out from my perch behind my shop desk.

I hear him say something but not anything I can understand.

Sorry? Your mask? I can’t hear you with your mask on.

Masks Gonna Mask

In lieu of a more traditional mask, he wore a mostly black cotton scarf with bright-white wild-west graphic embellishments—a bandana, folded and tied like a… well… bandit. 

Awkward, no?

Bandanas on most folks don’t exactly reflect your average shopper although we’re all adjusting our fashion accessories these COVID-days so why trip, girl?

On the other hand, if you’re a one-woman proprietress hawking goods in 9,000 sq. ft. of antique objects filling rooms, halls, and walls—you’re hoping for a good-vibes read on anyone you’re inviting into this packed cavern.

Chill Out? Even Fashion Gets Complicated. 

And while my read on this guest was definitely nebulous at best, the bandit-bandana did complement his black athletic t-shirt and black fleece joggers [note to self who wears all black and fleece when it’s triple-digits?]. 

Aside from winter athleisurewear on such a hot summer day—both his tennis shoes matched so there was that.

I love the community where my shop is located but the diverse, growing, urban neighborhoods I’m drawn to can come with real issues like homelessness, mental illness, or worse ‘desperation’ made worse from drug addiction.

It just is what it is. You do your best to be fair yet not get caught tossed a messy curveball you can’t handle.

Just invite the kid in you neurotic twit. You probably outweigh him, I scolded myself.

Come On In! I think?

Would you like to come in? I asked as I opened the gate to let him in.

He shuffled past me head down and mumbled. 

Uh, sorry but that scarf-thing your wearing…I can’t understand what you’re saying. I have a new mask I can give you, I offered up a fresh mask out of the new box of paper masks my local officials are sharing with small biz owners on The Boulevard thinking, please say YES, please say YES, please.

Still looking down, he shook his head negative.

Suit yourself, I said out loud while in my mind was like Ohferfucksake something feels off right now but think about it girl, you’re wound tighter than a popcorn fart today so just be cool — he’ll look around, get bored and then LEAVE, so there’s that.

Vintage Eye-Candy Takes Time To Digest

Of course, I know better — 9,000 sq. ft. of relics, antiques, and pop culture collectibles rarely bore even the most jaded browser, and my colossal collection packed tightly into this titanic warehouse space is remarkable eye-candy and highly entertaining if anything.

He followed behind me as I led the way to the back of my shop walking and rambling to fill the dead air between us as we passed stacks of chairs, bins, and boxes of what-was-its-names, and a whole bunch of thing-a-ma-bobs.

Getting him to react much less engage was futile but he was wearing a scarf-mask-bandit thingy and he mumbles anyway, so there was that.

“See Ya’ Up Front!” I said.

I stopped to face him at the spot I’ve designated to be the best place for me to disembark from a personal tour and let the vintage-curious set off on their own romp down memory lane.

You can start in this room, I said as I pointed towards the doorway, I need to get back to the front of the shop.

Only before turning to leave I introduced myself, locking my eyes with his in a final attempt to see him and assure myself he saw me.

My name is Audrey, what’s your name?

Mumbles.

At least he’s consistent, I thought, as he continued to mumble even as I insisted he introduce himself to me.

Aw c’mon. WHAT’S YOUR NAME, man?!?

Kai, he finally said looking down.

Thanks, Kai. I’ll see you back upfront in a bit, ok?

Ambling my way back towards the front of my warehouse I took some slow deep breaths shaking my head to ponder just how complicated life has become during the month of June in the year 2020.

Your Browsing Time Is Up

Ten minutes passed and Kai hadn’t made it back to the front of the warehouse.

Twenty minutes passed and Kai hadn’t made it back to the front of the warehouse.

ChristInABiscuit! 

Thirty-minutes have passed and Kai Who-Ever-The-Hell-He-Is still hasn’t made it back to the front of the warehouse.

So, Where In The World Is Kai?

Moving reluctantly off my work stool l made the long haul to the back of the warehouse — it wouldn’t be the first time a customer or looky-loo lost track of time — mesmerized by such a vast space packed [yes, to the rafters!] full of household items some vaguely familiar but mostly unidentifiable by anyone under the age thirty. 

It can be very distracting and I get it.

I’d gotten about halfway to the Back-Back when I stopped, looked, and listened.

Awfully QUIET back there. Like really too quiet.

Hey, Kai? I yelled.

No answer.

HEY, Kai? I called out only this time a little louder.

No answer.

KAI!?!

I bellowed concluding I had no idea where he was in 9,000 sq. ft. of warehouse and all of a sudden I felt extremely vulnerable and without a gameplan.

Weighing Options

He was far from hefty or looming as I reassessed the situation, yet he likely could have overpowered me if he was like meth-high — especially if I didn’t see where to anticipate an attack. 

Oh, snap.

And by now my surging adrenalin was not helping my brain get this sorted out and in fact, was making my hands shake so now there was that.

And damn if I don’t remember seeing he had on a backpack… dammit… I should have asked him to leave it at the front [but didn’t] since, after all, it wasn’t exactly my shop policy so starting with Kai felt to me like being… well, micro-or worse macro-aggressive.

Well, Here You are, Girl. Props for Being Woke.

An oddly-socially-awkward-and-vexing-at-best behaving young man is now — if I let myself get carried away here — stowing away in my Ark of a warehouse.

Or if I really let my brain-train leave the station — what if he’s high or detoxing or worse, ‘sick’.

And I am alone in 9,000 sq. ft. of hiding places with a man-boy I invited into my space in spite of my dithering and on the basis of my default people-pleasing nature.

And the young man is Black and I am alone and I don’t want either of us to end up harmed or worse dead—so there is that.

It’s June 2020 and Life Gets More Complicated.

Any options involving Law Enforcement to serve and protect me during this Tinderbox known as The Summer of 2020 is off the table.

I need help so asking for back-up from my next-door neighbors at “Antique Annie’s” draws the short straw by default. 

I’ve yet to sort out exactly what’s up with the ladies of Antique Annie’s but based on past incidents on the block some folks call them “Cop Callers”.

On more than occasion, I’ve felt sickened, helpless and frankly pissed-off when what was almost always just some garden-variety life on the block; a moment meant to numb gone belligerent or a mental health meltdown by someone homeless, almost-homeless, or for the time ‘with home’ but living by a thread and bare threads fray fast.

Pro-tip: When the Karens feel threatened they take action and it’s always like 911 on speed dial and during June’s blaze of godforsaken Sacramento heat this may not end well so there’s that, too.

Now I’m Pissed [and Scared]!

FINE, KAI! I barked for the last time. 

THIS. IS. NOT. COOL. YOU GOTTA GO!!!

Dammit, more crickets.

Antique Annie’s it is.

Not On My Watch, Thanks.

We better call the police. Terry from Antique Annies stated flatly.

Uh, I’d rather not…and not in my shop I said under my breath, 

I’ll just go back over there and try to find him but if anything weird happens… uh… you…maybe…. Uh…

So where is he? Terry asked now planted at the front of my warehouse looking around and oddly up as if he might land on us while we stood there.

We started towards the rear of the building walking single-file, planning and solving, marching with purpose towards the way-back where Kai, ever quiet as a church mouse bore himself in THERE SOMEWHERE, but WHERE? 

2020's Murder Hornets Nesting In My Brain Stinging And Whirring.

C’mon, how much more can go wrong once Law Enforcement is called and I swear it’s even hotter in here than it was like an hour ago and it was already topping triple-digits way back then.

We got halfway to the back but far enough back so what we know is now behind us and what we don’t know is now skulking somewhere ahead.

And down who knows what wormhole and beyond in this 9,000 sq. ft. 3-D-jigsaw puzzle when the image of Kai’s Backpack popped like a flashcard into my mind’s eye. 

Turning to Terry to share this [OMG] not minor detail my words log-jammed into,

Wait! What?!? Terry?!!? What the hell what do you think you’re doing?!?!

I tried to whisper-scream-very-loudly as Terry proceeded to power-walk right around me and then bee-line straight on back and into the belly of the beastly maze.

I’m gonna find him. What’s-his-name again? What?!? Kai? Ok KAI! Where are you, what are you doing? You gotta get outta here!!! and she disappeared around a corner and into the abyss where I’d left him to browse over an hour ago.

HOLD UP! Terry are you insane!? Terry! Terry!!! WTFTerry?!!!

Crickets.

Dammit. Dammit. Dammitall.

Time to call Law Enforcement maybe now, but NO!, I panic-wondered?

No Dosing In The Drive-Thru, Or Else

The image of Rashard Brooks — one-minute drunk-dozing in the Drive-Thru line at Wendy’s then who knows how many long, twisted minutes passed before he will be shot to death in cold blood while running for his life—a strong, and graceful athlete running—I think I saw him turn his head back towards them and was that a smile? while gripping one of the officer’s Tazers—oddly resembling the baton I carried in my high-school relay race.

FLASH-BANG went the starting gun—You can’t catch me, I’m free! I wanted him to sing.

NO, no, no. DO NOT call the PO-PO, girl.

And now—[omg] I’m run, run, running towards whatever the hell is going on back there.

Braking so suddenly I nearly fall into both of them — Terry planted like a Pitbull in Capri-leggings, one hand on her hip, the other shaking a backpack into the face of a young black man, wide-eyed yet oddly relaxed and seated comfortably on a Saarinen Womb reading chair… good grief that chair and Kai all worn-out and looking like they’d seen better days.

Then it hit me.

The foul reeking smell of cigarette smoke.

That skanky, stale, filthy smell of cigarettes and where there’s smoke there is FIRE and when you’ve salvaged 9,000 sq. ft. of mostly more and just a little bit less of highly-flammable relics after a 5-Alarm FIRE tried to cripple your business, it’s contents only to finish you off for good… well, now there is THAT.

And So I Lost It.

You IDIOT!!! What the hell are you thinking, Kai??? I howled so loudly even Terry from Antique Annie’s seemed to be taken aback.

Do you have any idea how WRONG THIS WHOLE SCENE COULD HAVE GONE?

Gesticulating wildly for him to get his ASS OUT OF MY CHAIR and for Terry to give him his bloody backpack full of smokes and whatever else he had in there and just get the hell out of my shop… NOW.

Kai rose slowly if not reluctantly and for exactly a millisecond I felt for the kid.

Sitting in a Saarinen Chair of Any Age or Condition Is Like sitting on a Mid-Century Modern Throne and Not Worth Your Life

Because you could be my son, Kai. You’re a father’s son, a sister’s brother, and I don’t want you to die.

I struggled to hold back my way overstressed-endocrine system from grabbing Kai, a young Black man, by his bandit-masked ear—dragging him by the lobe from the way back end of my warehouse through the front and on out to the sidewalk out front—filling every inch of my 9,000 sq. ft. with NAMES. 

Names of real people — Black, White, and lots of other colors— folks getting murdered, injured, or forever traumatized because these are unprecedented times and ordinary events get extraordinary for better or worse when it’s June 2020 and that changed everything.

Instead—I remained Socially Distant save for my masked rant.

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East coast roots—West coast spirit. "Tell the truth and shame the devil." ~ Françoise Rabelais Writer, artist, proprietress and antique peddler with reverence for the past and aspirations for the future.

Sacramento, CA
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