Thursday, January 15, 2009

Why

Tonight in Chicago, it's -11 degrees. We've all known for a few days that Thursday was going to be the coldest day that Chicago has seen in over 8 years. I, personally, have been terrified of today. I don't handle the cold well. However, I have so much other shit going on in my life that I have tried to block out the truly terrifying. Mostly that consists of my student loans, and the weather.

Today, the Chicago Tribune ran an article, "Why we live in Chicago"

I read it, looking for hope, because lately, I've had no idea. I was hoping someone would say something that would remind me why exactly I live in this fucking place. Like the gorgeous summers, the fantastic street fests. The Goodman. Whatever. I needed SOMETHING.

I used to live in Los Angeles, for Godsake! It was gorgeous. I had friends. I had nice clothes. I had a body that didn't betray my love of cheese fries. Because L.A. doesn't have cheese fries. Except for this one place, Pinky's, which I was vaguely familiar with. My point is that I lived somewhere that NO ONE SHOULD EVER WANT TO LEAVE. Yet, I did.

Anyway, the article didn't have much in the way of inspiration. The answers pretty much ranged from "Because I'm an idiot." to "Because my wife made me." It may have been the least inpsiring thing I'd ever read.

I spent the rest of the day fighting back tears. I felt like every decision I'd made in the last 4 years was wrong. Being in Chicago was wrong. The worst things of my life have happened in Chicago. My closest friends don't live here. My future seems lonely. Yes, it's true that I have the best legal job in the world. The very best. But at what expense?

All day long, I felt anxious and awful. I left about 5 minutes early, so I could make sure I could get on a train without waiting outside. Well, that failed. One train came. Wrong train. 5, 10, 15 minutes went by. Another train came. Wrong train. Something was wrong... usually my trains come every six or seven minutes during rush hour. Whatever. Finally a Brown Line train comes along. It's packed. I squeeze on. After a couple of stops, it breaks.

I get on the next one. They decide that it's going to be an express train. So I have to get off again.

Finally I get on a train that takes me all the way to my stop. I get off the train, and begin the four block walk in the coldest weather I have ever experienced. After one block, I am scared, and I can't feel my fingers or toes. After two blocks, my skin hurts. Like, a LOT. And I am freaking out. After three blocks, I am wanting to give up. Just quit it all, and move and cry and hide.

Fortunately, there's a little liquor store on the corner. And I am pretty sure I would like a glass of wine when I get home, not to mention that I don't think I could survive that last block. So I go in. I smile at the owner. And I walk as far away from the front door and the cold as possible. I take off my gloves, and only then do I really realize how cold I am. And how sad I am. I look at the woman behind the counter and notice the heater she is standing next to. And I burst into tears. And I ask her if I can put my hands in front of it, for just a minute.

She immediately grabbed the portable heater and put it up on the counter for me. This little gesture of kindness just made the tears fall harder and faster. She held my hands in hers in front of that little heater on the counter, and we both warmed our hands in each others.

A woman, who I hadn't known was in the store, approached the counter with her bottle of wine. She looked at me, concerned and asked if I wanted a ride, telling me it was too cold to walk. Now, embarrased by my tears, I smiled and said no thanks, and that I only had a block to go. She asked if I was sure, and I said yes, but thanked her profusely.

A man walked up with a bottle of whiskey. The shop owner and I were still holding hands in front of the heater. He was young and funny and cute. He told me that the three of us should warm up by doing shots of the whiskey. We both laugh, and tell him, no thanks. Then, he takes a healthy swig off the bottle, and then does a 10, 9, 8 countdown before he leaves. He blows a kiss at us as he runs out the door.

Now, the shopowner and I are both laughing, I feel warm enough to grab my bottle of wine, pay, and face the worst weather I have ever been in, for one more block.

Why do I stay in Chicago? Because three random strangers helped me manage that one last block.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

That made me happy. I hope you warm up.

Molly said...

That is the best post I've read all week. Hope things in Chicago get better.

JD Maybe said...

aweeeee...people really are good.

Scott Rose said...

Awww, that's such a sweet story!!

What I'm about to say probably won't make you feel any better about Chicago, but as you know, I also moved back to Chicago from Los Angeles for a year and I couldn't even make it for an entire year... I had to come back to Los Angeles after only 10 months. I kept a diary of things I liked & hated about Chicago, and I ended up with 22 pages of things I hated about Chicago... and only a 1/2 page of things I liked about Chicago.

A few of the things I liked about Chicago were that it really does have a strong sense of community, and although making friendships in Chicago is usually more difficult than in Los Angeles, those friendships are usually much deeper and longer-lasting.

But those positives were far outweighed by the negatives for me. And so I moved back to LA. Grace, if you ever decide to move back to Los Angeles (where it was 85 degrees today, by the way!), we will welcome you back with open arms! And, there are wonderful strangers in Los Angeles too! :)

Anonymous said...

This brought tears to my eyes. I've felt that same loneliness and unhappiness, and so often life steps in and gives you that little something you need to make it that last block. And that something often comes in the form of a small kindness from a stranger.

I hope you can stay warm over the next few days, and that better times come along soon!

Thinking Fool said...

May it warm up where you are, PRONTO!

Fannie said...

Yesterday was ass.

The Laundress said...

This is why I love you Grace. When I think I've exhausted every last shred of faith in humanity, something like this is all it takes for me. I'm such a softie. I mean cynic. I mean, whatever.

Daisy Duke said...

I would have come & picked you up and poured your wine *for* you. But you never call. Sniff. Sniff.

anonymoushottie said...

This is exactly why I don't move back to AZ. Well that and the fact that like 76% of Arizonans are total hicks.
This is also totally why I own a dog.

obsquatch said...

I went for a walk and was reminded that there are cold sensitive nerve endings in bone marrow. Somehow that made me smile. Not as much as your story though. I would have taken the whiskey. It's damn cold here!

Harmless Error said...

What a sweet post, Grace.

God Bless Chicagoans. Chicagoites? Chicagoers? Ahh fuck.

I'll come visit when it's not -11. I feel bad for complaining about the +11 today.

Nosquidrious said...

I'm with Obsquatch. You should've taken the whiskey.

I love those random interactions with strangers. One time I was on the Brown Line (yes, there was a time when I tried to ride the El, before I realized that it is slower and scarier than root canal surgery) and our driver was going too fast. Some CTA dude was screaming at him over the intercom to slow down. The train was packed. People were flying against either side of the train. The cars were almost sideways as he flew around the curves. The woman standing near me, who I'm pretty sure I had gotten to second and third base with on account of all the speed-induced contact amongst us passengers, turned to me and we introduced ourselves, and said we might as well be friends since we were about to die together. It made me laugh. It made me unclench my teeth. It made me extract my fingernails from the insides of my palms. For at least a minute.

Don't go back to L.A., Grace! Nobody likes a quitter. And I love you.

Anonymous said...

That's such a nice story.
I hope that I remember it if I ever feel desperately lonely when I eventually move far away from my friends and family for the sake of my career.

Grace said...

anonymous- is that passive aggression i smell?

Preggo said...

Chicago's my absolute fav city, seriously. Mainly for the culture and the people. . . . of course, I live in Phoenix, so in the 120 degree summer months I think fondly of snow, wind, and a cold that burns from head to toe. It gets me through the heat. The 'dry heat'. As if that matters.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous - last I checked, Grace's family and friends were in Chicago.

The Artful Blogger said...

I understand Grace's feelings of isolation. Although she has friends and family in her current city, LA is where Grace became GRACE. It is her true home and the center of her happiness, where she is surrounded by her closest friends and the temperature is always sunny and 70.
What's not to love about that?

Grace said...

Well, that might be overstating it a bit.

ArmyGirl said...

I can't speak for Grace but I would like to think all of her close friends aren't in one location. :-)