With one hour of sleep in the last 40 hours and eyes heavier than the gates of Hell I wandered around downtown Chicago, staring ever skyward. The stars haven’t been seen from these streets in at least a hundred years and they won’t be seen again for a few centuries to come. The buildings towering over the Chicago river are each more impressive than the last. The only name among them that hung on to a shred of memory -for reasons unrelated to the shoreline view and tangled in more shameful exploits than anything architecture alone could manage- was Trump.
After an hour or so of staring at that unforgettable skyline from the river’s shore, I found myself lost. I’d spent some time wandering downtown during 8 hours I’d been in Chicago and had come to know the top of a particular bridge well in the daylight. It was a cleaned up area with high value cars pulling out from every street along the way.
Under the bridge was different. Immediately after walking down a flight of cement stairs I looked to my left and saw five homeless men standing around a makeshift tent in the middle of a sidewalk. The road here was more worn than above. Instead of turning around and walking back, I turned away from the five individuals and carried on walking.
You’re not at home, said one particularly cold streak of thought. You’re in a city that saw more homicides committed last year than in Canada. You don’t know anyone and no one here is looking out for you. I continued to wander as these silent fears nipped at my heels.
In a matter of one block I’d gone from tourist to profiler. I’d decided each face I walked by was twisted with malcontent waiting to be unleashed on the next unsuspecting fool. I wandered in what seemed to be the correct direction to no avail.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw a beaming tower, hundreds of feet tall, with a deep blue light shining from the top floors. I don’t know why this deep blue was there, perhaps some religiously ambiguous celebration of the holiday season. Either way, I saw it and realized it wasn’t the first time I’d seen it that day. In fact, I’d seen it around the areas I’d been walking to buy cigarettes or sandwiches. I’d seen it over and over and over, never really taking into account what or where it was. Still, it’s familiarity pierced the darkness. I’d found my North Star for the night. Still, I wasn’t sure where I was, but I now had something to lead the way.
I turned around and took a left that brought me to a dead end and an ascending flight of stairs. None of the storefronts seemed at all familiar by name, logo, building design, nothing. I took the steps two at a time as I went.
When I came out at the top of those steps, I had the faint recognition of a building in the distance. I took a turn and headed in what felt to be the correct way with this newly rediscovered building kept on my right side -where it had been all day. Soon enough I was back in familiar territory.