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.