Chicago Night

Three drunken men are walking down my Bridgeport block. It is three-thirty in the morning and they are on their way to the nearby 24-hour CVS store so the shorter man can buy cigarettes. The remaining cigs in his last pack were recently smashed, and the nicotine addiction was beckoning. Two of the three men are adequately dressed for the weather, but one man is wearing an unbuttoned jacket and sweater with the zipper pulled halfway down, exposing his chest to the cold wind. The unprepared man is also sporting moccasin slippers. Every time the man dips his feet into the freshly fallen snow his legs recoil and snap up as if he had just stepped on glass.

The three men make it to the CVS and walk up to the register in the front. There are four, maybe five, employees standing near the store entrance; the rest of the store is completely empty. The employees look upon these young men and notice that two of them have faces smeared with blood. The shorter man has a paper towel stuffed in the side of his mouth, and the unprepared man has blood clinging to a scrape on his neck.

Despite their appearances, the three men are joyful and energetic. They converse with the employees, explaining why they looked so bizarre, and how their wounds came into existence. Both the three men and the CVS employees share laughter at the expense of the two bloody men, and jokes are made over the situational lunacy. The shorter man buys his pack of cigarettes, the three wish the employees a good night despite that dawn is approaching soon, and the men venture back out into the snowy, windy city.

The unprepared man says to the others that he can barely feel his toes, to which the men reply he should’ve worn boots. The unprepared man looks up at the snowstorm, and North the tall towers that reside there. He thinks of how the city never stops moving, even when most of its citizens are asleep. He thinks about the CVS employees and all the other people that work to keep the city alive in the night. He thinks back to his old job where he had to work until seven in the morning watching monitors. He thinks of his apartment blocks away and how it has become his place of comfort. He thinks back to one of his earlier places of comfort…

He can’t remember the first time he went there, but he knows he didn’t discover it. The spot is in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, right near Armitage and Sheffield. He walks south down Sheffield, and after 10–15 houses and apartments, there is a clearing on the left-hand side. In the clearing there are about four large trees, about six benches (three on each side, facing one another) and a view of the train tracks where the Red Line resurfaces. The ground is laid out in brick, except where the trees have rooted, and the land is raised in a three-dimensional trapezoid when you get closer to the tracks.

North of the spot is somebody’s gated backyard, and south of it is an apartment complex with parking spaces behind it. Sandwiched between these rich, whitewashed buildings is a spot that rarely anyone enjoys. No one who resides in the neighborhood used this plot of land, but he and his friends did. He spent many nights there, and the occasional afternoon, where alcohol and weed were his closest companions. He paid no attention to the people who were with him, and his only aim was intoxication.

He recalls a time when he went to the spot with an ex-girlfriend. He and his ex, and a few of his friends, walked up and down Clark street looking for a liquor store that sold a 30-case of beer. After an hour of walking, his ex (who was the only one of legal age) bought a case near Diversey and Clark. The drink of the night was Natural Ice, and for the lady: Four Loko. They needed a place to down these beverages, and none of them had a house of their own, so one of the guys suggested the spot.

Once they made it to the spot, the 5 of them began pounding the drinks. The brother of the unprepared man was the only one who didn’t partake in the drinking, for he was the designated driver. Instead he brought weed with him and they rolled and lit up right in that spot. They were loud and rowdy at 2 in the morning in the middle of the neighborhood, but no police or angry neighbors showed up. After the beer was gone, they all stumbled back to the broken-down, burgundy van that the father of the brothers bestowed to them…

This story, among others, flashes in the unprepared man’s mind as the three men trudge. All three of them were present that night, yet all three of them were different people today. When they finally return to the unprepared man’s apartment, the man kicks off his slippers, snatches off his socks, and places his pale, shriveled toes next to the furnace. Eventually the two other men leave, so the unprepared man picks up the knocked over TV, yanks off his clothes, and plummets into the bed next to his warm lover.