Many people’s lives were put on hold as a result of the lockdown; for the first time in all my life, I was forced to take a break. I was made to rest. I spent time with my family, began drawing again, began baking, reconnected with friends, and attempted to express my feelings to a few people. But what saddened me the most was seeing my cafe shut down.

The cafe was a fulfillment of my dreams, it’s a space with photographs of travel and lively discussions. I also had a small bookshop where we often rented out books. The cafe had become very popular over the span of four years as an area that had something to offer everyone. From scratch, I built everything and I was always there, literally. I worked as a part-time cook, server, cashier, cleaner, and hostess, doing whatever it took to make guests feel more comfortable.

It was there that strangers became friends. Usually, people came in for a chat after a long day at work, and young performers practiced their craft in the cafe. We formed a sort of community, and everyone became a part of my life. We talked and told each other stories about our lives. Unknowingly, we created a safe space for people to connect, share, and learn. People could be heard and not judged and through storytelling sessions we shared deeply personal stories, seeking (and hopefully finding) catharsis. It provided a free platform for many young performers, ensuring that they received a supportive and empathetic audience.

It’s been a difficult time for me now that the cafe has been closed for over two months. Initially, I was just worried because I had no idea what to do or how I would keep the cafe going.

I also worried about my regular customers who relied on the cafe as a safe haven. Many of the young people involved used the cafe to vent and improve their mental health. I also worried about the community we’d managed to create, how were they all holding up?

I have always been an optimist. However, I honestly have no idea how things will turn out, how this new normal will turn out for me and my small cafe. But I’m certain of one thing: Even if my cafe does not survive the pandemic, the community we have created will survive because I will not, and cannot give up on it. Though I’m concerned about losing my cafe, I remain confident that I will prevail because there is no shortage of good intentions. I’ll have this healing community even if the cafe remains close. I’ll always be there for them, and I’m confident they will be there for me too.