Life. In. Color. Playlist
There is a prayer that every Chicagoan believes. That no matter how cold it gets, no matter how many hours are spent shoveling, sniffling, slipping, and coughing there will be a point in which the fever of ice will finally relent. A mild grace will formulate itself in the subtle elevation in volume, temperature, and light. The brightness of our souls will begin to peak through the black plumage of our coats. The garments we shed like snakes on our couches will begin to consume our closest once again. The salt beneath our boots crumbles to a white soot reminding us of the strength of winter cremation. Surviving the winter in Chicago is a continual rite of passage for all of us and a reminder of how little we control. No matter your economic circumstance, no matter your native tongue, no matter what side of the politic divide you stand on. Whoever exists here, will at some point stare feebly into the murky glass of their smartphone, and whisper a silent gasp of disbelief that there even is such a temperature as -20 degrees. Whoever exists here will wonder aloud, if perhaps they actually did move to Mars or some other unforgiving foreign world. One where the only speck of life happens to be contained within the passing fluorescent illumination of signs or from the windows where negligent neighbors stubbornly refuse to remove their Christmas lights. Leaving it on well past the season, like a beacon, like a lighthouse, like a signal, like a pulsating glow of radiant and brilliant defiance that exclaims “S.O.S. ALIVE INSIDE” Truly though, we are alive inside. The blood within us all has continued to flow, surging to whatever appendages it can reach bringing a blush or rush to the cheeks. In Chicago, we continue to swipe our way left and right past the anonymous eyes of strangers looking for love, for warmth, for comfort in the form of being known and embraced. We stumble in and out of bars like stunned winter bees in a solemn somnambulant dance. We continue to go to our jobs, sit in our cubicles, labor on our feet upright for hours in cramped conditions, Uber our way through the bitter February, smoke, drink, and vape our way through one evaporating sensation to the next. Only to face another drop in temperature and to shield ourselves against the ominously fading light. We invent psychological terms and hastily thrown together interventions to rescue ourselves from despair. We await further instructions with the patience of an icicle thaw, sharp, clear and yet violent in its fragility. Time alters all things transforming decisions, moments, and pathways into altogether different beings. As we scrape the last bit of snow flurries from our cars, we catch the temporary definitive proof of our souls as our breath trembles delicately in the air. While the thread of 30 - 50 degrees may not change the entire garment, it is only these minor alterations that we can use to stitch together the fabric of our hopes. Shaking the fat snowflakes that are reduced to drops rips of rain, the mud sloshes around the city and even my daughter commented: “Oh, I like that Spring is coming daddy, but it sure does remind you how ugly Chicago can be.” It is this barren ugliness, this removal of the band-aid, exposing us all as a crimson and bleeding lip beaten to a pulp. At least, there is something left, even if its the wind that collides with our ears as we scramble into one building, running late due to the hangover of daylight savings time. The CPS teachers in our community wring their hands with impatience, preserving whatever scraps of dignity is left within their inner shell to make it until Spring break. And it is this, that every Chicagoan believes, that there will be a moment where the frozen spell does at last break. Where the clouds shatter down tumbling rain, and the seeds begin their finite awakening from a Subterranean dream and stun us with the audacity of their libidinal speech. An articulation of eloquence, a capturing of the sweet ugliness, the visceral reminder that we are at once a force, always shaped within our imperfect winters, a brief and passing splendor one shade of color away from Spring.