Time to Settle Accounts
March 14, 2012: Warm day.
It was sunny.
I was walking west on 43rd Street toward the Green Line enjoying a surprise-beautiful Chicago March day, even sweating a bit in blue jeans and a long sleeve button down. I’d folded my spring jacket and placed it in my backpack, and for the first time in 2012, the Chicago weather had me smiling. Walking ahead of me was an older man tossing a 16 inch softball to himself; the man was enjoying a stroll, and I caught him and passed him and said, “Softball season already, huh?”
“Nah, not yet. Trying to get an afterschool thing going,” he said wistfully. “Hopefully we can get some of these little motherfuckers off the street.”
Meanwhile, twitter was blowing up. SXSW was in full swing with Chicago fully represented down in Austin, and I checked my phone as I walked, reading #sxsw updates as those of us still in Chicago informed our Texas-bound brethren that the weather was pretty fabulous here in the Chi.
I got to the train stop and bought a Coke from the vending machine. It was cold and sweet and I walked up the stairs as the warm wind blew. On the platform, a salesman of some kind was talking to a young mother while the woman’s daughter waited by her side. He was selling what I thought was lipstick, and he had a bunch, all looped over his shoulder like a vanity ammunition belt. “This would look great on you,” he said as she examined the colors.
I sat on the bench and waited for my train. On twitter, Letter L was telling us about the “homeless hotspots” that were started in Austin for the internet overload… Bears and Bulls fans were wondering what moves our teams would make at the start of free agency and the end of trade season, respectively… there was also discussion about the civilian massacre in Afghanistan… I put my phone away and grabbed my book, a 1971 pocket version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
“Damn it’s hot,” said a voice. I looked up and saw a man in the process of sitting down next to me on the bench. He was in long sleeves and wore a windbreaker.
“Yeah, but ain’t it great?” I said.
“I missed my stop,” he said. “Just totally relaxed. Now I have to go back the other way. Hope this train comes soon.”
“That’s why I bring something to read.”
“I have my paper,” he said, motioning to the newspaper I saw folded under his arm.
“What paper is that?”
“No no, Trib? Sun-Times? What?”
“Sun-Times. I don’t read the Tribune. Too hard to handle. And it’s too long. Just too much stuff. I like the Sun-Times – keeps everything simple. And you can hold it on the train. I mean, you can hold the Tribune on the train if you know how to fold it – ”
“My dad taught me.”
“So there you go. Yeah. But yeah, Sun-Times.”
“Hey look,” I said as we heard the train approaching. I took another sip of the Coke and placed it in my backpack, checked my page number and closed my book, wiped the back of my hand on a sweaty spot on my forehead, and boarded the train. I took a solo seat in the back near the connecting door. I checked my phone – 26 new tweets, holy crap – put it in my pocket, and returned to my reading. The connecting door pushed open and I pulled my backpack from its path. It was the salesman from the platform. “Body oil, got that body oil,” he shouted, with three straps looping over his shoulders as he worked the train car, walking to the other side. I wiped my forehead, smiled, and continued my book.
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