Dine alone in Chicago and you won’t dine alone

 

My conversation with the people of Chicago as I dine alone, but not really.

Chicago in July collage

Sit by a window in a restaurant next to a sidewalk in Chicago and you won’t feel like you’re dining alone.  Dining with me tonight are the business men with their matching ties, the women with their fashionably sensible flats and the dedicated athletic types with their running outfits. They would likely frown that I have a whole bread basket to myself but they’ve already turned the corner.

Almost everyone has ear buds in that is connected to their phone. What did we do before phones?  I want to leave my seat and ask them what they are listening to. NPR? This American Life? Which would make sense since it’s produced here. Podcasts? Which one? Music? What type?  But no one smiles. Stoic city or everyone is lost in thought as the hurriedly get to their next location.

Is it the sad news that 82 people were shot in Chicago in one day? Is that what weighs down on your minds? How the gang violence has claimed so many in your shared city?

I was wrong to say that. I’m sorry. The violence is awful but we all have struggles in our lives. And it would be strange if we all walked around smiling. It’d be a very creepy affair.  However, as I ponder what that would look like, I do see a beautiful woman with a radiant smile. I’m captiviated. Her energy is so nourishing. She’s smiling at someone. Someone she’s recognized, a friend, I’m sure. But I can’t see who as the restaurant booth I’m in is obstructed by some decals on the glass. I lift up out of my seat and see that she’s talking to two homeless women, or so I assume.

The women have huge backpacks filled with tarps and blankets but these are laid out and they rest there with their bulldog/pitbull mix (I can’t make a confident guess as to the breed or perhaps it was a mutt). Normally, I would expect this exchange to last five minutes, at most. Instead, the smiling woman squats and talks with the women for twenty minutes. Always smiling.

It wasn’t a moment that people would caption with the cliche “faith in humanity restored,” but something more understated and lovely and I’m honored to have witnessed it. Kindness.  Kindness for the sake of it. Given away freely and willingly. I can’t say what impact it had on those homeless women or those who walked by (although the foot traffic did turn their heads to look on as they walked by whereas before they just walked on by), but I feel lighter. And I ate half a loaf of bread.

carpaccio polpo
The border that blocked my view. Oh, and also, carpaccio polpo.

I realize I was rude earlier about the violence comment. Of course it is terrible, no one denies that so why would  I mention that to my dining companions in such a confrontational way?

Well, in truth, I am intimidated by your city. Everyone knows where they’re going. I struggle with my left and right, and don’t even bother with telling me such and such is on the southwest corner of … I’ll just give you a deadpan look. It’s hard not to feel underfoot.  However, I love to sit here, now with my cappuccino, and admire how things clatter about like the inner workings of a clock. It’s best not to touch, just look.

cappuccino

I know that I’m not giving myself a fair chance. I could “conquer” the city one day, if that was my desire, but I’m content to sit and admire all the going’s on.

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