It’s 12 degrees and everyone is still out on the streets. These people are a different breed of crazy—some people look bored; others look pissed the hell off and the rest just look ahead, shuffling. But not one person in Chicago looks cold.
Sinatra is blasting and I’m sitting at the window looking out into the city, this concrete mountain is so much larger than me. The cars all look like ants, smoke is blowing out from chimney tops, and the street is crawling with shoppers, workers, and tourists—fascinating. It reminds me how minuscule and powerful you can be in one moment. Everything is a melting pot within itself.
I’m now eavesdropping on this pale blonde girl in the mall, because my professor said to. She says it’s good for writing so here I am.
Everything about this woman is white. Her skin. Her hair. Her mannerisms. Her attitude. Her name is Meredith and she is currently in law school and eventually going to pursue her Ph.D. She’s accepted a job she expected to get after grad school, which is adding a considerable amount of stress to her life.
This woman is scaring me.
She sits across from a foreign-looking man with a plaid shirt and great eyebrows. He asks her, “If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?”
“A willow tree, because I like to think I’m well grounded and can go with the flow. And because it’s pretty.”
Meredith. Is this what I have to look forward to? Becoming Meredith?
There’s a table full of people behind the Meredith and Eyebrows—they’re all from different countries and sitting together. People can be so friendly sometimes and it blows my mind. The Asian girl asks a blonde at the end of the table, “Is that Russian?” In the middle, there’s this old French couple that lets two Mexican girls around my age sit with them. Complete strangers.
They’re all seated at a long table with a beautiful painting of the Chicago Bridge above their heads. This place feels peaceful, even though there are twenty different people talking at once. All these personalities and accents are melting together. I wonder if this is what people expect America to be like as I sip my coffee. I get kind of sad when I realize that it usually isn’t.
Asian girl to French couple: “—yes, they were homeless! They live in those tents on the side of the street and I was so surprised! Why do they do this?”
Well, homelessness is something that I feel more or less picks you and not vice versa, but that’s just my opinion.
Now I can see why my professor asked me to do this.
Soaking in one’s surroundings does something magical to a person. I love relishing in the look of a new place and taking in the best parts of it for a time before moving on to the next.
And when you’ve finished, you miss your home. The same old bed you’ve always had. The things you’ve seen every day and leave to get away from.
You eventually return home and everything looks new.
It’s been an hour and random people keep coming and going from this table and everyone’s inviting them to sit down. It’s the weirdest thing I’ve seen in awhile. Strangers dining together like they’re family.
It’s bizarrely beautiful.
Elise is a writer and artist based in Los Angeles. Currently inspired by the micro-poetry movement, she spends her time exploring different versions of spoken word and mixed media. Her most recent project features Elise as one of 100 poets in the anticipated book, Around The World. This collaboration will make its debut to the public as of March 2016. Until then you can find her somewhere in LA, tripping over things.