I was born here, in a room facing the lake, a fall bluster pushing hard against pale blue tiles that decorate the exterior of an implausible building. She is stark amid parks and landmarks, except when she blends into the sky languishing behind her. A playable card. So me.
I have the same uncommon heritage that is common among all Chicagoans. My parents were children of immigrants, immigrants themselves, factory workers who found rodent tails in their peanut butter and who smelled fresh of morning soap at an un-Godly hour because work did not wait for their tire to be relieved.
I've worn uniforms and smelled the dank and rank of the subway, felt its familiar warm breeze on me, closed my eyes on the city and listened. Chicago dreams waft through a window worn from too many tugs on that rope, always ripe and wistful. I remember hearing the game pouring out of every creak and crevice I passed, knowing summer.
I fell in love with Chicago boys who delivered newspapers and wore thin jackets in the winter and had broad hands, red from cold. I nurtured strong and fair friendships with girls who wore Chicago-sized burdens and still kissed softly and smiled sweetly. They could carry you if you were weak, but we never were.
Is it the smell of the city, or the stone and strength? I can't say. She vibrates. She embraces, envelops, wraps you heartily. You know she is injured but she walks stoutly, like her bungalows and bricks, braced for whatever may come. I do love that about her.
I learned to read here, listened to words, felt their force. My mother was fired by the man who would be mayor and I strained to hate him but he loved my city, loves it, so I can't. We are kindred.
What could your story be here that would not include steel and rigor, fight and sense, a pot of steaming soup on a bitter day while the sun stubbornly presses on? She doesn't know she shouldn't be here.
I have friends who have moved here from Michigan. They are among us, welcomed and claimed, but not us.
We know why Marshall Fields was important, why we pull to the side when a police car whines by, why we bow our heads in church even if we haven't been in years. We've been brushed by an unshaven cheek, tucked into a wool scarf so tightly we could barely breath, we can sing.
We know the burn of shame, still know there is dignity in feeling it rather than pretending it shouldn't matter. We cry when our children fall, but not so you can see the tears. Outside we are rare.
I love that she can show porcelain and fine design to the lowest among us and insist it is for all of us. Don't be afraid to touch here. Linger. You belong.
How could I tell you about my city? I've wondered about other places, wanting to stretch beyond my place because that's what living is, isn't it? But every time I think too long on this idea I'm brought to a cringe.
Never. I could never leave home. I love it too much.