I exited a 2-year whirlwind of a relationship recently. A relationship that began when I left another city to what I thought was home. It was a reunion. And ever since I crossed that Illinois state-line, and rolled through its city limits, I associated this one person as personification of the Windy City metropolis. In retrospect, it was a relationship that coupled, then crippled Chicago into a dry and sheltered trance. On the way to its final days, I thought I was ready to leave, as if there was nothing left to trace in the lifelines of this city’s palms. Tucked away in its ageless winters, held hostage my sense of possibility. My loss led me to believe there was nothing left here in Chicago — no substance, no inspiration, just nothingness weaving through its empty grey sky/line.
Boy, was I wrong.
What I shortly discovered, through the silences and what seemed like bottomless whiskey bottles, was the secret wonders Chicago genuinely has to offer. What we Midwesterners are usually doomed with is a sense of complacency to comfort. It’s not the cliche reminder of carpe diem we need dosage of, but a simple awakening, a simple moment to appreciate the urban surroundings that cradle us. And, Chicago is beautiful.
What I’ve discovered the past few months is that its beauty is somewhat secretive, keeping hidden gems in rarity so when discovered, it’s an experience — a memory engraved in the books, instead of a day’s worth of Facebook likes and hype.
It took me a break-up, nights of reckless but unforgettable behavior, and a lost opportunity to discover the potential offerings of this city. There’s a common denominator between all the whiskey nights, bar/lounge/club binges, fantastic meals, gasps of air between laughs, and unsaid miscellaneous nights. It took something greater, more like someone(s) who played a back beat to my life until recently, that’s given meaning to “Second City” into a new, personal heightened level. The company and memories are forever interlaced with this city — now synonymous for the places they’ve carried me into. There hasn’t been a date forgotten, no more important to each other, because all the art/beer events, watching The XX perform Coexist, driving to Ridgeway, J Dilla at The Whistler, ladies night at AliveOne, 4am binges in Boystown, dinner club, anything Lake Shore Drive, the first night I met him, Fete Market, catching TheWhoevers create havoc, tubing down Cricket Hill, searching places for conversation, house parties to celebrate each other, et cetera, have made memories (now in text and photo form) into the epitome of what this city represents for me. It’s these days, and of course, these Chicago nights, that stay beyond the time I hold the privilege of living here.