Coffee Shop Research (by Billy Coffey)

I am of the opinion that people have a right to their own privacy, whether in deed or in word. “Mind your own business” is what my mother always told me, often with a wagging finger in my face for effect. The lesson was taught both early and often— Jesus doesn’t like eavesdropping.

Which is why I don’t eavesdrop, I research. Jesus doesn’t mind research.

I spent the better part of a recent morning in a coffee shop researching Tori, Laura, and Heather, the three twenty-something women at the next table. Very bright, very opinionated, and very vocal. In the twenty minutes I listened to them, they touched upon everything from politics to the environment to who’s doing what to whom on their favorite television show.

I was about to turn my attention to the newspaper in front of me when Laura mentioned the fact that the most recent episode wasn’t very realistic. It seemed as though one of the main characters was in a delicate position involving an unwanted pregnancy.

“Seriously,” she said, “why doesn’t she just have an abortion? No one would blame her.”

Heather took a sip of her coffee and nodded, then flicked a crumb onto the floor. “I gotta say I would,” she answered. “I really don’t see another way out for her.”

Tori, I noticed, remained silent through the recap. Her shoulders had closed in and her hands were folded around her coffee cup, as if she were trying to shrink herself enough to be forgotten.

Unfortunately and as is often the case, trying to go unnoticed was exactly what made her stand out.

“What do you think, Tori?” Laura asked.

Tori’s grip tightened around the sleeve on her cup, and she ran her other hand up and down the leg of her jeans to smooth away a wrinkle that wasn’t there.

It was pretty obvious what her opinion of the situation was; agreement with her friends wouldn’t have given her cause to be so anxious. No, I decided that Tori held the opposite view. The question was whether she would play along or be honest.

She chose honest.

“I’d keep it,” she said. “I’d find a way.”

“Seriously?” asked Heather. “You would seriously keep that baby?”


Laura let out a snort. “Please tell me you’re joking,” she said.

“I’d keep it,” said Tori.

The three sat in silence, unsure how to proceed. Changing the subject would be good. Ignoring the comment would be better. Heather glanced at her watch, hoping she would remember somewhere else she had to be.

But then Tori found her courage.

“I don’t think she should kill that baby.”


“She’s not killing anything, Tori,” said Laura. “There’s nothing there to kill.”

Heather nodded. “She’s just a few weeks pregnant, Tor,” she said.

Tori shrugged an I-don’t-care. “I don’t think it’s right.”

Laura shook her head. “You know Tor, if there’s anyone at this table who should be pro-choice, it’s you.”

“You got that right,” echoed Heather.

I wasn’t sure what was meant by that. Evidently Tori shared my sentiment.

“Why would you say that?” she asked them.

Heather and Laura exchanged an uncomfortable look between them, as if what they had to say was both obvious and awkward.

“Hello?” asked Tori.

“You’re black,” Laura said.

My eyes widened. How could a conversation about a television show turn into a discussion about abortion and race?

“So?” Tori asked.

“If there’s anyone who should appreciate freedom, it’s you,” said Heather. “Your ancestors were robbed of their rights, but you have them all. I think you’d be protective of them.”

“But it’s a baby,” Tori said. “You can’t kill a baby.”

“It’s not a baby,” stated Laura. “It’s not even considered a person.”
Tori took a long sip of coffee and stared at her friends. “Maybe that’s why I don’t think she should have an abortion,” she said. “Maybe that’s why I think it’s wrong.”

“I don’t get it,” Heather said. “What’s that have to do with anything?”

“You say if anyone should be pro-choice, it’s me? I don’t think so. I think if anyone should be pro-life, it’s me. Someone has to say that baby is a person. Someone has to stand up for him, just like someone stood up for my ancestors.”

“What are you saying, Tori?” asked Laura.

“I’m saying that you can’t sit there and say that baby isn’t a person, because two hundred years ago people would say I wasn’t a person, either.”


To read more from Billy Coffey, visit him at at his new website and follow him on the twitter at @billycoffey.

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