Those of us who spend a lot of time tapping on our laptops at the Epiphany Cafe know that the mood there varies according to circumstances and the characters who walk in through the door. It’s most often energetic, ebullient, and elated; seldom staid, sluggish, or sleepy. It has the personality of an over-educated grad student home to see his parents; someone who has plenty to say, but can never be understood. As a gathering place, the Epiphany cafe will never be mistaken for a barbershop where events of the day are combed over, or a diner, where they’re chewed over. Those places process the things that happen; the Epiphany Cafe makes them happen. They’re like your great aunt who spends more time cleaning than making a mess. The Epiphany Cafe is your two year old nephew, who’s just learned that he can reach the shelf where the knick-knacks are kept. That is to say the the Epiphany Cafe is always a little bit chaotic; but never like it was immediately after the Therapist Emeritus announced she was retired.
To be fair, before she left that day, the Therapist Emeritus referred every one of her clients to someone else. Before abandoning her people in the middle of multiple simultaneous nervous breakdowns, she gave them all a number they could call, negotiate a fee, and get an appointment with a stranger, two or three weeks hence. It was the least she could do, as a medical professional.
The telephone crew had come in for coffee when she first broke the news. They spread it to everyone else. They had little else to do, since no one used landlines anymore, but get coffee and spread gossip. Within an hour, all the neurotics and psychotics in the Kenilworth area were streaming into the Epiphany Cafe to get their number, too. Not since the last Emo concert had so many people who needed therapy ever been in one place at one time.
The Weather Beaten Man in a Cowboy Hat got referred to a colleague the Therapist Emeritus didn’t like, for no shrink likes to treat a patient who actually needs it. The Geeky Guy got someone who specialized in geeky guys. The Dog Fearing iPhone Pecker had already pecked her iPhone, found someone else, and was out the door before she could say goodbye.
The Therapist Emeritus didn’t leave the Epiphany Cafe without first saying goodbye to everyone, except me, of course. Like I said, I’m a fictional character and might just as well be invisible. Rabbi ! gave her a blessing. The Waving Man, had he been there, despite the fact she wasn’t a car. The Therapist Emeritus even had a word for the homeless Lisping Barista, who, by that time had worked all day, not slept all night, and was a hot puddling mess. The Therapist Emeritus asked how she was getting on with her journalling and encouraged her to continue, ignoring what any therapist emeritus might be expected to see.
Just before she left, Little Theresa came in the door to buy her daily cup of coffee for someone else. Little Theresa didn’t even make it to the counter before she stopped in her tracks. She looked around, got a feel for the place, and began to cry. She didn’t know why she was crying, that is, she couldn’t tell anyone what was sad; but she did know why she was crying. It was the only reason she ever cried, except whenever she barked her skins on her Landlady’s coffee table. She was crying the tears of God.
You see, God can’t cry on His own. He has no tears, nor eyes to weep them. He has to use the tears that Little Theresa provides. She doesn’t mind, even though this kind of crying is just as painful as any other. It’s the least she could do. It’s something that needs to be done.
Just before the Therapist Emeritus left, she stopped to say goodbye to Little Theresa. Then she made an error that, perhaps, demonstrated that she was right to retire. She made a serious mistake that showed that she had lost her diagnostic stuff. She mistook Little Theresa for someone who needed therapy.
The Therapist Emeritus did not sit down right then with Little Theresa and shrink her head. She was retired. But she did give Little Theresa the number of a colleague she could call, even though Little Theresa had never been a client of her’s. She then bid the Epiphany Cafe farewell, forever.
Despite all the hours we spent at the cafe together, I had never spoken a word to the Therapist Emeritus. I was always afraid she would see right through me. Still, I was sorry she was gone. I had depended on her to draw out the stories of many of the characters I met here. Moreover, I was losing more than someone else’s shrink. I was being abandoned by a literary device. My imagination would henceforth have to compensate for the loss of data.
You never know how much good a therapist emeritus is doing until you don’t have one anymore and chaos takes over what had been an orderly arrangement of specious interpretations. By the time she left, the nerves of Epiphany Cafe were already shorting out and blowing a fuse. The drug dealer, Chai Latte, enjoyed a sudden spike in business. The quick exit of the Therapist Emeritus did more to jazz up and jangle the nervous system of the Epiphany Cafe than gallons and gallons of coffee ever could.
The panic stricken state of mind was not any more obvious than it was with the Weather Beaten Man in a Cowboy Hat. His eyes darted under his hat, as if he was being surrounded by a posse of ghosts. They had their guns drawn and had him dead to right. There was nothing more he could do than to run out of the Epiphany Cafe and flee to the grave of the righteous Reverend Abraham Pierson. There he would fruitlessly ask for an intervention, saying that he had confessed his sins already, couldn’t he catch a break? But the good Reverend Pierson did not appear. Perhaps he was off duty, sleeping late, or preferred to haunt at the stroke of midnight.
The Lisping Barista was sorry to see the Weather Beaten Man in a Cowboy Hat go. She had been counting on asking him for a place to stay. It was true she thought he was crazy and his running out of the cafe seemed to confirm it, but the Lisping Barista wasn’t afraid of crazy. She was also sorry to see him go because he had been scheduled to work the next shift and it didn’t look as though he’d be back soon. Dead tired and homeless, it looked as though she was fated to work a double and then sleep in the car.
Without comprehending why, Little Theresa – so sane, she might be mistaken as crazy – sat in the middle of the cafe, face up, tears streaming down; doing the only thing that could be done: crying the tears of God. When she was done, He felt so much better.