I cast myself down five months of this obscure Chicago life and the endless pressing into the pointed urban face prints me to its mold. Each day this year I have schooled in a battery of basic skills that had atrophied in the provinces: how to cross the streets smoothly, how to pass in most society, how to drink the city’s gin, how to sweet-talk Chicago post office workers, how to hustle locally, how to be broadened by a wealth of people. Though I start to look the fool, I have not cut my hair. The city becomes me.
It possesses me demonically, and I only just begin to let it speak with my tongue. I point my empathy into it, feel it. I read shared poignancy in the color of its sky, I squint into the terrible shadow cast by its entropy. I see the clues it throws off that suggest its depth, like the distant echo of a deep well. I want to articulate it, I want to cultivate myself that it could articulate itself through me. This is a romance of longing and sugared embrace, set against vivid fears of ruin.
Stacked memories from another life a decade ago play songs to me on every block– this other person was almost everywhere I am today. Such memories do not fill up the place; I re-remember the city while also working to create it. Sometimes, when my angle aligns just so, I see clearly that nothing is at all like it was and marvel at this busy place. And then other times I wonder if the jaws haven’t already begun to jail me, if I’m no different than a bag of sawdust to the monsters of the realm, if the city’s fleshtone is not vivid streaks of macaw colors but a cold matte gray.
Summer will arrive soon, beautiful and overwhelming, public consciousness will glide along the hinge. I hope some people of the city will gain a few paces on their pursuers.