This evening as I left the office, it was still light outside. I noticed this first on Monday, with a bit of shock—the sun is shining! Holy crap. Along with the sun, it’s been so windy I feel at times during my walk that I’m actually getting carried across the street, but it’s not a cold wind, so I’ll take it. When the wind is whipping my hair all over my face, the sun is glistening off the river and the buildings, and this song is playing on my iPod, it all feels quite romantic and wonderful, my little walk to the train. That is, until I catch a glimpse of myself in a window’s reflection and see the state of my bangs. Yeesh. But, whatever: All in the sake of my love affair with the city.
It’s amazing the way a little sunlight at the end of the day changes everything—from the look of the buildings to the people walking on the streets. Although at this point in the winter I just feel fed up and long for spring with such fierceness it’s as if spring was something I experienced in another lifetime, I do love the way Chicagoans hustle up and down the streets when it’s bitterly cold and windy out—it’s like we’re all fighting the same war. And then, the sun shines again, the temperatures rise, and it’s like everyone just lost his or her virginity. We abstained all winter, and damn it, now we are getting LAID. (Yeah! The weather as a metaphor for sex! It happened. Deal with it.)
I was feeling this general warmth for my city as I crossed over to State Street and passed the news station and the beautiful Chicago Theatre. Protesters were outside, holding up signs. One woman held up a sign: “End the WAR ON WOMEN!” I beamed at her. She stared back at me, expressionless.
I was still smiling as I started bouncing down the stairs to the Red line. I must not have had Youth Lagoon playing too loudly, though, because I could hear the man hobbling down the stairs next to me muttering under his breath: “All you motherfuckers. You never fucking listen to me! I’m talking. All you motherfuckers.”
When I made it safely down the platform, I could hear a woman singing. She had quite possibly, and I swear I do not exaggerate, the most beautiful voice I have ever heard singing live. Live, from the Red line at rush hour.
I didn’t even pause my iPod. I just pulled the earbuds out and listened. I stopped directly across from her to watch as she sang. She was singing some gospel song, what, I don’t know, but she was certainly taking us all to church. Except for the fact that no one seemed to be paying attention.
For a moment, I considered digging through my bag to see if I had a couple bucks. But that didn’t seem good enough. So I just watched and listened. The woman looked back at me, and even though she had on heavy fake eyelashes, I could see her eyes smiling back at me. I grinned at her, and she kept on singing. She finished right as I could hear my train barreling through the tunnel. “Thank you,” she said, to no one in particular. I clapped. It was a sad little sound. But she smiled back at me, and I felt like she'd given me a gift—it was as good as the feeling I get on the way to work, when I say “Morning” to the man on the milk crate and he returns my greeting.
I placed my earbuds back in my ears and stepped on the train. The person in front of me started to head left toward some empty seats, then said, “Ugh!” and turned back around. One of the seats was covered in vomit. I found a vomit-free seat and pulled my book out of my bag. When I looked up a few minutes later, a woman had sat down on the seat closest to the mess. I saw her look over at it for only a second, and then without skipping a beat, went right back to writing her text.
At rush hour in Chicago, we only really see the things we want to notice.