The last time I saw you was late October. Within seconds of taking my exit off of the highway, into the city, I rolled down the windows. I wanted to smell your air. I heard more than I smelled — curse words floated through the streets and into my ears. It had been far too long since I’d heard an open-aired “Motherfucker.” I heard the hum of the El and felt an irrepressible melancholy.
I came to you for the first time, at the age of 16, at the heed of Hillary LaMontagne’s mother. She knew I’d appreciate what you had to offer. She put me on a train in Springfield and shuttled me into the bowels of Union Station. I remember facing the lions, as I entered the Art Insitute. I remember the businessmen at Berghoff’s. I remember the racks of purses in a downtown department store, with prices that had multiple zeros after the initial numbers. I remember feeling like I had never seen anything like you and that I needed more. That the number of people equaled the number of opportunities — and that there was so much I could do. I projected my life there. Years later, I lived my life there.
I resided in your graces for 7 years. I lived in 5 places in those years. I had a studio on the northwest side, a condo downtown with a doorman, a shoddy one-bedroom in the heart of the Gold Coast, a badass basement loft in East Village and then a pretty perfect one-bedroom in Wicker Park. Someday, if I make it back to you — I want the El. The sound of the El seduces me; the view from it stabilizes me. I want an apartment whose backside sees the El passing by. One that almost touches it.I want to be perched atop the streets, all the hearts beating underneath – mine up there, feeling so large and important, but always acknowledging others’. I want the whirl of the rails (packed with riders) to lull me to sleep. I don’t want to lose the feeling that there are others — tons and tons of others — seemingly so unlike me – running around, wanting and dreaming the same basic things.
My gait was made for the city – I move like only one motivated can. Some are motivated by salaries and ladders. I have always been motivated by the dream of capturing it all, by making memories.
Public transit bound your people together. Passengers commiserate, sharing looks with each other, glancing up from their phones, over their Red Eyes. It’s a lonelier battle, these days. Here, it’s You vs. Your Car. In the city, it was Everyman Vs. the CTA. In our unbridled anger, we found brotherhood.
I miss my neighbors. I was closer (both physically and emotionally) to my neighbors in the city than I ever was in the country. In a semi-secluded home, you can build your world. Your piece of the pie. But in a city — you’re all sharing the same pie! So you are thrown together, to care for your share. We would stop on the corners and chat about the block. We – the caring citizens – were the city’s stock.
And then there is the food. I miss your food with a vengeance. I miss the way a wave of enthusiasm can turn a donut into a doughnut. (The price usually goes up as well, much to my dismay.) I miss rotating, ever-changing menus, the establishments’ need to churn out newness. The ambition, a constant path for perfection… (though I believe, in reality…perfection in food is far too personal to judge.)
Mostly, I miss the way you felt a little bit like ‘mine’. My dear, you have so many cracks and crevices, there is space for every little rat and every roving girl.
I hope to see you soon.