whipchick (whipchick) wrote,


He tapdanced on a flattened cardboard box, that's what I remember. A skinny black man in a Santa hat, on the sidewalk of the Magnificent Mile. His boom box played carols with an electric beat and the crowd, too, was electric--expensive shopping bags in their hands, smiling for Christmas. A light snow was falling, and the big flakes and the lights in the trees made me rich enough to put five dollars in his hat. I wasn't cold, then, and I moved to Chicago.

* * *

Every week I bought the same things--eggs, potatoes, cheap steak, oatmeal, raisins, broccoli, half-and-half. Exactly twenty dollars every time.

Every day it was already dark when my last class ended, and I hiked up my shoulders and walked home shivering. I huddled in my bed with all my clothes on, trying to get warm.

This was when I learned that Officer Friendly was really an angry metermaid with a gun. When I dated to eat. When, the night I set myself on fire, there was no-one to call, no-one I knew well enough to know their number.

* * *

In the year I was in Chicago, I never entered the Merchandise Mart, that white behemoth squatting on the north bank of the river, filled with showrooms of German lamps and Italian tile, Wolf stoves and Subzero refrigerators. But it connects to the hotel and it's warm, so I cut through on my way to sushi, on my way to ignore prices and congratulate myself for connections made, pitches pitched, cards exchanged. The vast expanses of plate glass set in Deco architecture show the soaking tubs, the marble-countered model kitchens, libraries with walnut shelves and rolling ladders. Things I will never buy, because to buy them I would need to have a home.

Instead, I have hamachi nigiri, avocado bomb, lava cake (the cake was too much). I have a city view room I am not sharing, popular tweets with the conference hashtag. I have a scar in the shape of the chain that burned into me, a scar that is a story I can sell. I can love Chicago. I can leave Chicago.

whipchick still finds Chicago deeply unfriendly and motherfucking cold. But the sushi was excellent and the radio conference enlightening.

Tags: ljidol, non-fiction, thank god that's done, travels, what makes you happy?
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