It rained all night. It rained for the second day in a row, bringing an unseanonal and unsettling June chill that settled over Chicago. Low clouds and a pale drizzle off the lake erased the skyline, reducing those monolithic towers to ghostly apparitions. It darkened the office enough that the truest light was from the two computer monitors on my desk. Down upon the street that rain deepened shadows, turning broad and bright avenues into tunnels of darkness.
I shouldn’t be wearing a jacket, not in June. It only added to the weight of a long Friday at the end of an equally long work week. Wind whips along the river, almost howling, as I make my way to the train. At street crossings, turning away from the exhaust of choking rush hour traffic, I feel pressed on every side by people rushing to get home.
Bumped and cut off, trudging past stoic and unfriendly faces, it is easy to be cynical. Crowded streets become battlegrounds, where each person jostles and protects their tiny piece of ground. Rush hour becomes a study in frantic chaos, waves of people as disjointed as if they were waves rushing headlong to shore, intersecting, crashing, and quickly overwhelmed by the next wave. The drizzle turns to rain. People huddle and cower beneath umbrellas and newspapers. I collide with a guy coming the other direction. Neither of us offers more than a frown at the inconvenience of having been briefly interrupted in our rush, as if the other person was nothing more than an inanimate object. No courtesy, no expression of remorse or even a chuckle at the ridiculous nature of it all.
I was thinking about bills, and laundry that needs to be done, dishes in the sink and what I’ll cook for dinner. I need to work on the car, and there are still a hand full of things that’ will be on my mind from work all weekend.
It’s a rush to make the train. In the corridor there’s an old lady with a cane, a guy texting someone with a baby stroller and some kids. I weave through them as deftly as I can, nearly running several times. If I miss this train I have to wait a half hour for the next one, and then the night is shot. I make it just as the doors are closing, crushing in behind several others, all of us breathless and pouring sweat.
Collapsing in the seat, my inclination is to think that life is a drudgery. It’s been a month since Tuscany and the comparison is any easy one, but it doesn’t do justice to the reality of real life and the sublime luxury of travel. Travelling is not life. It is what we wish life would be about. We wish we could live in those exotic places without necessarily realizing what it would take to live there, or what we would leave behind.
Travel is a lesson. It is a rest from our true realities, a chance for us to pretend more than we become each day. We can, for that brief time, be free and find ourselves again, and to refocus on life a bit. It is a time for memories to be forged and carried throughout our lives on cold and stormy moments such as this, when we’re at our most exhausted and least inspired. In those memories we can find cause to smile and hope, and decorate our realities with these very precious jewels;Memories.