We were lined up facing each other, he and I. That long row of window seats on the 146. Sat across from him, eyeing his pantyhose. He sat across from me, eyeing me, eyeing his pantyhose.
He’d been jogging, the blue shorts pulled up high. What does it feel like to run in nylons? Is there room for the sweat to escape, or does it get mushed against the skin with nowhere to go?
The Michigan tee didn’t match the rest of him, and his lips moved in a sort of murmur. Was he talking to me? Couldn’t hear over the Goo Goo Dolls. “Tonight’s the night the world begins again.” Lyrics like that make you wanna gaze out the window. I gazed at people’s ankles instead.
Along Clark Street, bell-shaped blooms heaved in the heat. The night before, the scent of weed had sailed up to the balcony. That bench, they should have gotten rid of it. Teens came from all over to pass joints around. All of Chicago and they chose the bench below my window. Summer passed with a chorus of crickets and that scent.
Shadows in the bedroom danced like gold though. One night, on the balcony, a shooting star cut across the sky. It looked like make-believe but it wasn’t. Monotony then magic, that’s Chicago, that’s life. The years get lost between dying embers and shooting stars.
The City of the Big Shoulders. That’s what Sandburg called it. For me, Chicago was the City of Slumped Shoulders. Body language, you know? You are how you feel. I felt like someone who wasn’t supposed to be noticed, not in that flirty way. Those were the days of Starbuck_3 on Match. Worked in advertising, liked to IM in the evenings. He’d catch me writing Best Bets or some party story for RedEye. Sitting there thinking up cliches when the instant message pops up. “Hey hot stuff.” He was into haiku.
“Why don’t you putta
Side the pen and take a chance
On me. Dinner please?”
Starbuck was cute, better than Jude. Jude, great name, awful etiquette. “Just curious,” he asked. “How much flab do you have under your arms?”
There was Antoine, the cute cafe manager. Age appropriate too. Free coffee once a week, that’s how that rolled. He was German, I thought he was French. We went Dutch.
It was around this time that the fire went out. Heard the singe, the wet rag upon a lit match. It sounded loud when it went out, like life losing power. Silence and darkness fell all at once. Sitting on the sofa, wondering about the tug in my cheek, that’s how it started.