Time to Settle Accounts
April 18, 2011: Staying above water.
The two men waiting for the Red Line at Addison looked at Wrigley Field under the night sky. “Wow,” said one to the other, “the Cubs play there.”
“Yep,” said the other.
“Just beautiful,” the first man remarked. They boarded the train, and one stop later the friend departed, and I said to the first man: “Are you new to Chicago?”
“What?” he asked.
“I heard you talking on the platform to your friend about Wrigley. Thought you might be new to the city.”
“Oh.” He laughed. “No, not really. I’ve been here about four years. Just not up this way very often.”
“Where were you before Chicago?”
“I’m from the Bahamas,” he said. “How about you?”
“I grew up in the suburbs – Evanston, Wilmette – and have lived in the city, well, I guess about the same as you. Going on four years.”
“Getting warmer,” he said.
“Excited for the summer?” he asked me.
“Always!” I exclaimed. “Can’t get here soon enough, I say.”
“What do you like most?”
“About the summer? Man,” I said, “just being out. You know? I don’t have any specific activities. My girlfriend plays volleyball four times a week, and she loves the beach, so she relishes the summer for those reasons. Me, I just like being out. Just seeing everyone. We put in all that time in the winter. Summer is the payoff.”
“I imagine you’ll be on the beach with her?”
“I’ll come by, I’m sure.” The train car was nearly empty as we rode downtown. Still, the train is loud, and I was having trouble hearing him, so I abandoned my usual standing post and sat down. “Jack,” I said, offering my hand.
“Chello,” he responded.
“Chello?” I asked. He spelled it for me. “Like ‘cello’ with an h,” I said.
“Or like ‘hello’ with a c.”
I laughed. “That works too.”
“Do you go swimming?” he asked.
“In the lake?”
“I won’t drown,” I said.
“I need to get into the lake this summer, and do some more swimming,” he said. “When we were kids, my father would take us to the water. The Bahamas are beautiful, but I was scared of swimming. My father would take us into the ocean, to a part where our feet couldn’t touch, and he would let us go. We would start flapping our arms and waving, and just when our heads would go underwater, he would snatch us up, let us catch our breath, and then let us go again.” He laughed.
“That’s pretty much how my dad taught me to parallel park,” I said.
“Quite a way to learn to swim,” he said.
“And now? You swim okay?”
He smiled. “Won’t drown,” he said. “Won’t drown.”
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APRIL 18, 2011: New Bulls column at Sports Blog Network