After nearly two blissful days in the city where I first discovered aloneness, I swallow the bitter pill of memory and face what I am becoming. Already I begin to feel that the path beneath me is becoming unstable, that the road drops precipitously away on one side and then the other, that I have lost my map in an earlier tumble, and that stormclouds gather their breath on the horizon.
And yet last night, the best of my friends from high school gathered together at Gino’s East (home to the best deep dish in the world) and despite the terrible service (which we grumbled merrily to each other about), and the late hour, I found myself entranced by the ease with which we opened up again to each other. With Marshall, Vince and Tucker there, the night seemed even more complete. They love their girls so much, and it is all the more lovely for the care that they also show to the friends of their girls.
We finish the night at Innjoy, to 80s music and too much imbibing.
I’ll remember, too, riding down the Chicago River on the architectural boat tour, the guide rocketing off names and dates with the simplicity of water flowing downhill, an easy sunlight coaxing our skins toward tan. Later, Janet and I walk the Magnificent Mile before exploring a gourmet grocery store where she endows me with bacon chocolate.
I didn’t get to see all of my good friends in Chicago – notably Misuzu and Phil – but I did see Erzhe, and anyway there will be a reunion in October. Strangely, I feel that future time gathers easily beneath my fingers, that I could stretch it long and fibrous like fresh mozzarella.
Two years ago, my parents and I stuffed ourselves and the smallest subset of my belongings into my little blue Prius. We crossed this big, beautiful country with the speed of a thousand thoroughbreds thundering toward the wire. Nothing was truly clear then.
I was half the woman then than I am today, and yet I still know nothing.
Today is also 9/11. The airport is overflowing with security guards and policeman, and yet I make it through ticketing and the checkpoint in record time. Signs in the CTA station say, “Let us never forget,” and I wonder how many generations will pass before we do. The War on Terror has become so confounded now, and it is difficult sometimes to extricate 9/11 from the unrest that the United States has helped to perpetrate in the Middle East. The best way to honor the day, I think, is to also honor the people: to re-read their stories, recall our emotions in every painful iteration, and think again that despite life’s fragility, we are heroic, strong and deeply connected to each other.
And so, I lean forward into the wind, move my feet and bring forth the sensation of fearless exploration that carried me through my summer. Today I do not ask to be faithful, I ask to be fearless.