I have spent the past four days in Chicago. After four months and sixteen days away, it was fabulous beyond words to be back. It felt so right. As I started recognizing buildings and street names, it felt a little like coming home. I’m not sure I’d realized how much I miss the city of Chicago, not just the people I love within it.
I lived in Chicago for about nine months — not really all that long a time — and yet it has made such an impact on my life. When people ask me where I’m from, I’ll generally tell them that I’m currently living in the eastern suburbs (of the Twin Cities) but that I spent most of the past year in Chicago (if it seems relevant, I’ll add that I’m originally from the Twin Cities, but I went out east to college near Philly). For whatever reason, Chicago has really captured my heart in a way I never expected.
After missing months of Genderqueer Chicago meetings, I was finally able to make a meeting — possibly my last meeting until I move back to Chicago. It was so wonderful to be back. I felt like a celebrity: it was fantastic to see so many people I’ve missed. Everything I loved about GqC was still present. After the meeting, as always, we went to the bar/restaurant pub we always went to when I was in Chicago (nice to see that some things haven’t changed). In some ways, it felt like I’d never left — it was that comfortable — except for the intense feeling of not taking it for granted. I stayed with some friends around the North Side that night (and met an adorable corgi who, after initial uncertainty, decided they loved me and showered me with affection for the rest of the night), and it was so nice to talk and catch up.
I stayed for the rest of the time I was in Chicago with my best friend (and former roommate) and her fiancé. They have a lovely condo and two beautiful cats (I loved being in a household with cats). We talked; we cooked (my friend made homemade chicken cordon bleu with waffles, and I made a rather delicious strawberry/blackberry fruit tart with sweetened mascarpone and a sugar cookie crust); we watched Lost (my best friend’s fiancé is an enormous fan of the show and has gotten me almost hooked). It was really good to spend time together.
I met up with a Bryn Mawr friend in the Loop on Friday, and as we wandered around, I was just about bursting with affection for the city. There is my friend’s dorm; just over there is my favorite place for deep dish; I used to go to meetings in that building; I interviewed in the other; I bought ties in that store. I have so many memories from around the city — in the Loop, up in Edgewater, even in Boystown.
Despite the fact that I have rather complicated feelings about Boystown, I had a drink with a friend there yesterday (which really made my Chicago visit complete — I’m so glad I extended my trip and left early today instead of yesterday), and I was taken back by the memories I have of the various places. I know that the Starbucks on Clark and Belmont allows the public to use their restroom (always a good thing to know, even if it doesn’t seem like a big deal). I’ve been to two separate frozen yogurt places on Belmont with two separate groups of friends. I went to Ann Sather with my cousin; I finally accepted full-heartedly that I like fruity drinks at Clarke’s. A gastropub on Clark (actually more in Wrigleyville) makes one of my favorite drinks in Chicago. I had a Bloody Mary for the first time at this dark little bar on Clark (the same one at which I had a drink with my friend, actually . . . now that I think of it, they’ve run out, or been out, of important ingredients both times I was there — tomato juice, olives — but it was a good place to talk).
It was almost a perfect visit. I managed to see nearly everyone I miss, and I feel like I was able to really strengthen a number of friendships (ah, the power of face-to-face conversation). I had an utterly amazing, though far too short, time in Chicago. What little time I’ve had, however, has only strengthened my certainty that Chicago is where I want to live. I love the city; I love my friends; I love the community I’ve found.