The Public, In Transit

I’ve lived in Chicago long enough that being in the city itself can get a little mundane. Granted, I still choose my seat on trains and buses depending on the view I’ll get, and I continue to be giddyinlove with this place, but finding new things takes closer observation now.

Truth be told, most of that closer observation leads me to people. I’ve had some amazing people-watching over the past few weeks. This city is great. I love that this is all nonfiction.

Restaurant, Wrigleyville
A mother and a daughter (I’d put them around 60 and 28) at the next table have already finished their meal when I sit down. They do not stop talking for love or money. Apparently the daughter is having some sort of apartment trouble, and the unit isn’t warm enough for her to be in at the moment. Regardless of context, the mother keeps saying, over and over again, “They would never do that in Wisconsin.” I hear all about the different places the daughter has lived, including Mexico and New York, what trouble the daughter has with remembering to pay bills, and trips to visit relatives. The mother is content to only respond with her thoughts on how unlike Wisconsin every other place is. By the time I’m done with my meal, they’re still talking and haven’t moved from their seats, though they’ve had their coats on for at least half an hour.

Coffee shop, State Street
There’s a girl, 14 or 15 at the outside, and already strikingly beautiful. She’s still young, despite the ankle-length black coat she won’t take off. It’s a great coat, and it really sets her apart from the group of early teen friends she’s here with – she’s obviously staked out her place as the smart, edgy one, and she carries herself with a wonderful self-possession and confidence. To me, this coat is the kind you buy because a character in a book or a comic you love has one. To my untrained eye, it seems like a manga costume, more dramatic than practical. As fabulous as this girl looks, though, she’s got white gym sneakers peeking out from under the hem of the coat. It endears her tremendously to me. I want to compliment her, for her great coat and on her sartorial future, but I don’t want to be weird.

Brown line, North Center
The two blonde girls in front of me are reading the same YA book together. Their shoulders and the fake fur ruffs on their hoods shake as they laugh silently at the text. One has a brown coat and a brown-and-white scarf; the other has a white coat and a brown-and-tan Elmer Fudd hat, with polka-dots. As we head south, they giggle more and more, but otherwise they don’t exchange a word. They even turn the pages just by checking in with each other. I wish I could see the title of the book, but they’re shoulder to shoulder, doing their own thing.

Brown line, Lincoln Park
This older couple is sitting together, holding hands. He’s a big man, bald on top, with a very expressive face. His hands are huge compared to hers, but also expressive. She’s wearing a bolero hat and keeps her gray hair long and loose. They’re not making a big deal of it: they carry on a conversation and look out the windows, but they’re still holding hands. Despite being on a late afternoon train, they’re very intimate and comfortable. I try not to catch the husband’s eye while I’m watching; the wife is with her own thoughts, and doesn’t look my way. They get off at the stop before mine. He follows her, carrying her tote.

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