This is a piece written during my first week of living in Chicago working as a freelancer and is based on a true occurrence hours after I stepped off a 16-hour train from Jackson, Mississippi.
harold and gloria held out their hands for me as i reached the top of the nine stairs
leading into the yellowed-brownstone.
I know there were nine (seven with cracks, four missing paint)
because i always count things when i am nervous, and this icy morning was no exception.
I have no idea why harold was wearing a long, heavy overcoat
nor why gloria had a thick sweater on. i only knew these articles were needed
and i somehow didn’t get the memo until after i stepped off the train at 9:34 on May 19th.
Too late. I clenched my thinly covered arms and tried to pretend
this 40-something windy weather was nothing out of the ordinary for a mississippi native.
this charade must have been half-believable,
for in a moment, gloria had accepted my decline for a jacket out of her station-wagon
and was carrying on with harold about the latest city news.
A lot of the first week in this city was a blur, but i remember these few moments clearly.
Here they were before me.
Harold and Gloria were real, live city-dwellers – the people I always envied.
Harold’s chattering was filtered through an accent which could only
be pulled off by a native of the city. Terribly legit.
Gloria didn’t have quite the credentials Harold was packing –
she had lived in a country town until she was seven. But that didn’t matter to me.
There was something about this semi-retired photographer and school teacher
that i liked. They were nothing out of the ordinary and yet everything
about them was mesmorizing. As Harold was getting off the 55 Express yesterday
and I was walking away from my evening train, he smiled and tipped the same old brown hat he wore the day I met them both.
“How you doin, kid?”