It was a big empty space right down the hall from the 1871 office space.

1871 was celebrating its one-year anniversary as Chicago’s premier startup coworking space.

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We walked in, and there were colorful lights, and music, and toilet bowl racing, and poly pong, and sweets, and vegetarian burgers, and drinks.

Let’s race! he said.

Let’s play poly pong, he said.

Let’s get food, he said.

Let’s get another drink, he said.

If you win an iPad mini, will you give it to me? he asked. So did he.

Let’s take ridiculous action shots, he said.

And so we did.

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Let’s do laser tag, or drink beer, or eat chocolate, said very few “she”s at all.

I wonder why?

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All Bostonians everywhere felt shocked, felt hurt, and felt concern for our city after the Boston Marathon this year. But some stuff was just weird.

I saw this:

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… and I said ha! No, Boston, no. That’s not what happened, fool. They told you to stay indoors, and so you did.

There was one nineteen-year-old injured kid with a gun and some scary pressure cooker bombs somewhere in Watertown, and no one knew where, and so the National Guard, the FBI, the Boston Police, and the Watertown Police swarmed our empty streets and yards while our people all hid, hunkered down in their houses, or else watched the crazed scene with bated breath in huddled little groups of fear.

Did we “hunt you down”? Or did we react, terrified?

And then people we elected started pointing fingers at Homeland Security for not being more scared of immigrants, and at the FBI for not spying on us more, as we read here and here.

And that day I was on the train in Chicago, and I contributed. I tweeted this:

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And it’s been a week, almost two, in fact, and yet today I saw this:

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and this:

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and this:

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and this:

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… everywhere.

And I thought, are we bored? We are all safe here in Chicago, but we retweet and comment pointlessly about stuffed animals on poles. We say: “Be careful out there.” Huh?

And so I decided, there and then, to think carefully before I terrorize myself and my countrywomen and men with retweets and reposts and pictures.

Oklahoma City bombing was a terrible thing.
9/11 was a terrible thing.
The Boston Marathon bombing was a terrible thing.

Our current jittery propagation of terror is a terrible thing.

May we reach a place where we simultaneously appreciate the selflessness and heroism of those that protect us, while meanwhile refusing to propagate terror.

Further Reading:

How we are all unwitting terrorists (The First Casualty, April 24, 2013)
This Is What It Looks Like When the Police Shut Down a City (The Atlantic Wire, April 19, 2013)
Running from Terror in Boston (The First Casualty, April 16, 2013)

Thanks to Jay Pinho for curating many of the links in this post.

The dark green leaves of the ivy contrast pleasantly with the bright green walls of the laundromat. I sit in the colorful chairs and write whimsical things.

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The man with the headphones calls out to me. I remove my earplugs. “You should move your laundry to the dryer. Sometimes, people take your laundry.”

“Why would they do that!?”

“I mean, they come back the next morning to bring it back. They don’t even realize it’s not theirs.”

“Oh,” I say.

“Just lookin’ out, you know?”

“Yeah. Thanks,” I say.

Laundry in dryer, and my roommate texts me. “Din ready.”

I ask the man with the headphones what time he closes. A long conversation ensues.

It turns out, he doesn’t let people out of the laundromat after eight. Who wants to be held hostage in a laundromat, colorful though it may be?

In the end, I write down my phone number on his notebook, and he promises to call me before he leaves. I tell him I need those sheets I have in the dryer to sleep on tonight.

Delicious stir fry. Game of thrones on the TV. I leave the house when someone on the screen iss having a stick stabbed into his foot.

The laundromat doors are locked, but he lets me in when I knock on the window. I collect my things and ask his name.

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“Ronaldo”, he says, making the “a” sound flat.

“I’m Sarah. Nice to meet you.”

“You must be new to the neighborhood.”

“Yep. I just moved right there across the street.”

“Well, I’ll be seeing you around then.”

“For sure. You have a good night, Ronaldo.”

“Bye now.”

He was a tall, stout man, and he put his neat, brown bag on the seat in front of me with purpose and cleared his throat. I paid attention.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he began, “I am here because I am an ex-offender and I need a job. If there is anyone who could find it in their hearts to help me out, I would be most grateful.

“In my bag to my left, I have brought my resume. I am trying to save money to study at DePaul University. If anyone would like to see my resume, I will be glad to give it to you.

“I don’t steal from anyone, I don’t rob, I am an ex-offender, and I am looking for a job. If there is anyone who would find it in their hearts to give me a dollar, or a quarter, or a dime, I would be most grateful. Thank you.”

He was tall, and proud, and he stood still, observing the seated passengers, and the train rumbled on, and my eyes burned.

A person’s arm reached up, a dollar bill fluttering from between his fingers. The tall man moved towards it.

“Good luck,” I gulped. I wasn’t sure he’d heard me in the commotion. “Good luck,” I repeated. Why did it matter if he’d heard me?

“Thank you,” he replied.

Further Reading:
The Prison Problem (Harvard Magazine)