My Early Chicago

Buildings downtown

Winter comes early to Chicago, and I’m told this has been a very forgiving November. It’s not even Thanksgiving and already my hands are drying up to the point of almost cracking. My eyes water involuntarily when I walk to work.

“Stick around,” Christina insists. “There’s nothing like Chicago in the summer.” If I can make it until my birthday in March than maybe I will make it alright here and really enjoy being outdoors in my new surroundings.

In some ways, I already feel like I live here; I impatiently press past the tourists on my way to Water Tower Place, rushing to work. I sidestep mysterious puddles of unknown liquids on the sidewalks. I take the good food smells with the bad fumes that come out of nowhere in the streets. In some ways, I feel like I am just on a really long, unpaid vacation.

Christina is shaping my earliest perceptions of the city. She has penciled out areas on a map of Chicago, indicating the neighborhoods I would do best to steer clear of. “You will never have a reason to go to these places,” she says. I laugh at the hipsters waiting in line outside Kuma’s because Christina laughs. “Suckers!” I say to myself as I pass them standing in the rain, waiting for the privilege of paying for an overpriced burger. And yet I can’t help but notice how good it smells whenever I walk by on my way home.

Home is now an abstract concept; I have a Chicago address now, and that still amazes me when I stop to think about it. Originally, the department store put me down for 15 hours for this week. Days later, those hours doubled. During the brief window of time during which I had it in my head that I would have four days off in a row, I decided to go to Caldwell to get some of my stuff. I was crushed when I saw the schedule change, leaving me with only today and tomorrow off.

At first I decided to go anyway, since I’d had my heart set on it and couldn’t face the disappointment of not being able to go. In the end, my dad half-heartedly talked me out of it. He wanted me to come home, but he knew it was a terrible, terrible idea for such a short period of time. So, here I am, not in Caldwell. The prospect of going home, even if only momentarily, being taken away from me made me even more homesick than I already was.

I took myself to a movie today; I hadn’t seen anything since before I moved, and when I got to the AMC downtown, I realized I felt so much better. It was like I was doing something familiar, something routine. Something calming. This must be what those more spiritual than I am feel like when they go to church. The movie-going experience is my ritual. At least it is for this part of my life.

I also picked up my check from that show taping while I was downtown; they paid me $38.01 for my six hours of work. I’d be really pissed if it hadn’t been such an interesting experience.

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