I can scarcely think of you without my heart seizing in my chest.
I don’t like thinking about Lake Shore Drive, where I rode my motorcycle in the dead of a dry winter to meet with clients in Andersonville.
I don’t like thinking about Andersonville.
Or any of the other neighborhoods north of Wrigleyville. Or any of the neighborhoods south of Wrigleyville either, for that matter.
I don’t like thinking about River North – the building that sits between Orleans and Ohio, where we lived my first six months in the city; or Orleans and Ohio, the latter of which I would look for from the taxi after I flew back into town every Thursday, because it was once my favorite view of the city.
I don’t like thinking about Gold Coast, where the kid lived with us for a year, and where we lived when he went to jail. Where we lived when you bailed him out against my wishes, and so effectively bailed on me.
I don’t like thinking about Lincoln Park, where I left you. I don’t like thinking about the park itself, with all those baby goslings when we first moved there. I don’t like thinking about the Starbucks where we’d tie the dog up outside. I don’t like thinking about the woven rug in our living room that we would have to replace each time he periodically got sick on it.
I definitely don’t like thinking about the Lincoln Park high rise where I lived after that, with it’s north-facing balcony of absolute destitute and its living room where living souls went to die.
Or the high rise after that one, that was too small for my business endeavors.
Or the one after that, either, where all of the emotional warfare finally came to a head.
I don’t like thinking about the Chicago skyline viewed from the bridges and river; same one I once looked up at and thought about my career; that time I believed you when you said that Chicago was the greatest city in the US, and why.
All those times I suppressed my own feelings; all the times I felt otherwise but figured it had to be me. All the times I made it work, pretended – along with everyone else – that Chicago was as good as New York and not populated from midwest puppies who would move out to the burbs once they found their spouse.
It already feels like eons to me — especially given what little I’ve done here to date— but when people here learn how long I’ve been local, they all say the same thing:
“Omg, you just moved here!”
And, lol. Sure. Whatever you say.
The south is a honey-suckling lamb
I actually fucking adore it. Like, in a way that makes me want to consume it.
Between the trees and the people and the goddamn humidity, which I truly love, I want to fucking wrap my arms around it and devour it whole — and for as much as I’ve seen of the south, it would probably all but roll over onto its back and offer up the smooth, soft skin of its tender belly for me to do so.
Most transplants like the south for two reasons: the cost of living and the winter weather. And, yeah, I guess I share those.
But I also like the summer weather. People challenge me on this, scoffing when I say “it’s my first summer here, but I love humidity,” because they think my being from Colorado means I’ve somehow never been anywhere else. But what tender lambs don’t know is that I summered with my grandma in Florida, and I know what I’m saying.
Heat index was in the hundreds this week, and I scarcely noticed. Not that I noticed and toughed it out, or needed to prove a point. Sure it was hot, but like… let’s all move on, shall we? It wasn’t a big deal.
There are two reasons I came down here
(1) The partial truth, which is what I tell people when they ask. (2) The rest of the truth, to which they are not entitled.
I tell people I came for the weather. I tell them my everyday vehicle is a motorcycle and that I hailed from Chicago. And then, to fill up further space and prevent them from driving the conversation, I state the obvious for them: Chicago was throwing off my groove every time there was ice.
If they push it, I might add things like cost of living, the trees, this market’s growth, etc. But mostly I give them just enough to satiate them until they conclude that I’m just a weird girl or, far less common, they realize that I’m actually saying “it’s none of your fucking business why I’m here.”
I never tell anyone, apart from those not-dumb-enough to guess it: it’s also about a boy. Sure.
And I have never told anyone except him (and have never had anyone guess) the final frontier of the full answer: I wanted a new market that would serve as a sandbox for my next business.
The south is my playground.
Between the low cost of living, the low bar and lack of competition for making moves, and the tender-loving people, many of whom are either appeasing folk, contented small business owners, or both, I cant help but survey the south and smile.
Like, oh honey. I am going to consume you. And what’s more, you’re going to like it.
It’s all so adorably easy. The market yielded in Chicago, but it’s even gentler and softer down here.
You wanna be a bartender? Fine by them. Organize a whiskey tasting event? They’re delighted. Start up a whiskey distillery? Wonderful — there’s always room for one more!
Pay less than $500 per month in rent for the privilege of doing so? No problem.
Use that low cost of living to afford you the time and resources to launch something? Well, aren’t you something!
How I got here
I rode down here on my bike in a single day
It took me 18 hours to get from Chicago to the south, and I did it without stopping overnight, riding from 5 am to 11 pm — mostly because I wanted to see if I could.
I did it when it was still very much Midwest winter, setting out on the warmest day of the week between two snowstorms.
It was in the 20s when I left. I think it peaked 50s for the ride.
People seem pretty taken aback by this when I tell them, and it’s sort of hard to describe the mindset that compells you to do something like that, especially alone.
Truth is, I just decided. And I didnt leave room for dread or fear. I just did it.
I got fatigued, sure. I pulled over half a dozen times in the final hour, after hitting a thunderstorm. There were moments when I was aware of how alone I was, how vulnerable if something went wrong. Moments I was aware of my fatigue and worried about whether I’d make it. But there was no time or room for being scared or filled with dread. And there was no use for it.
I had more dread over a common cold I got a few months later than I did at any point during this ride.
Getting a cold in the dead of summer
I have this theory with colds: I think people get them when something’s wrong, emotionally or psychologically.
Nobody likes getting sick, but this is who does, and when. (Ever met someone who always seems to be sick? Ever met someone who never is? How different are those two people?)
If I’m doing well, I am impenetrable. I can live and sleep with SO’s who are walking cesspools and “cold” like children — coughing and sneezing into the air, refusing to medicate, kissing me — and I’ll still come out unscathed.
But I get colds when I fold. I used to get one after finals every year, even in May or June. I would also get a cold during the holiday break after our year-end push in consulting. I get colds when I am already stressed, especially if I’m not looking at it (as I’m apt to do.)
So when I get a cold down here in the middle of July, when my SO and everyone else around me is healthy AF, I mean, shit, that’s something to look at.
I was fighting it for a few days, watching the tide slowly go out. But then I was at work on Saturday, just before our late night rush, and I was suddenly hit with this tsunami wave of total death.
“Fuck… fuck.” I muttered, chugging water with the same efficacy as putting out a forest fire with it.
I was so overcome with a sudden dread that I started shaking and stepped out of the bar for a few minutes. And I am far from a delicate or dramatic person.
Because — fuck —
(1) The boy loathes getting sick more than most anything else, so this meant I would have to / want to quarantine myself from him.
And (2) this also meant something’s really wrong. And I am ignoring it.
What would you say you do here?
I don’t know.
But I do know that my lack of answer to this is what’s wrong.
I came down here to do things, and I intend to do things. I have done things before and have a solid track record for success on these fronts, when I want something, and I intend to see success again.
I have a couple of ships anchored in the harbor, a few things I’m eying and lining up, prodding to see how they move. And eventually, I will set off towards one, as I do. But I haven’t yet.
Most days, I remember who I am and feel reassured that I’ll make it happen in due time, as I always do.
Some days, however, I realize I’m sick in the middle of July. Working at a bar.
I’m a bartender for the same reason many people are bartenders: “to make ends meet until __.” Always “until.”
They say you make good money doing this and, contextually, I guess they’re right. It’s better than a lot of similar jobs and I’m glad to have it, but let’s call it like it is: you’ll average like $20 an hour, and not consistently or full-time. Compared to my previous life, all I can do is laugh and feel grateful.
Bartending has a sweet seduction. When I’m at work, I’m at work. I hustle, I sling drinks, I like it. I’ve only been bartending for 2 months and I’m already the highest-grossing at the bar.
But there are moments when it hits me like the sudden roar of cicadas outside:
what the fuck are you doing?
And sometimes it takes getting sick for me to slow down enough to listen and work that out. And that moment is far harder to deal with than freezing cold or 100+ heat; the long rides to get here and the others to follow.
Movement and action is stupid simple. Not always easy, but very simple. You can brute force your way through it without thinking.
The real difficulty in life is realizing, and being honest, and fucking choosing.