It’s 12:45 AM, and I feel my feet pound on the pavement.
Thirst took me here, outside of my Chicago hotel room, and onto the street with a friend. We tried to obtain water through room service, but they stated that they wouldn’t have any until 4 AM. When my friend and I asked where the nearest location we could buy some was, a helpful employee told us that there was a gas station five lights down.
So we left. Outside, the frigid air forced my arms to clutch across my chest, and the black skinny jeans and sweatshirt I wore were not enough to keep me warm. I wasn’t freezing, exactly, but the cold made me want to cover myself with a ton of thick blankets. My friend who accompanied me wore nothing but jeans and a white T-shirt, and he managed to muscle through without complaining.
As we walked, completely alone – aside from a few cars passing by – he began conversation and I followed. The shining moonlight and the sweet city lights illuminated our path and kept back the darkness that could have completely ensconced us.
“Follow me!” my friend shouted when we arrived at an empty four-way intersection, and he dashed diagonally across the street. I jogged after him, laughing and whipping my head back and forth to look for cars.
By the time we got to the gas station and purchased our drinks, thirst had long since faded from the forefront of my thoughts. I took out my phone and texted a friend in Virginia, “So I’m in a random gas station with a friend and it’s about 1 AM… what is my life?”
It struck me then, in that moment, what it was like to be unrestrained. I had never done anything like this before. I had never gone out in the dead of the night. I had never walked anywhere without an adult knowing where I was. It’s not like I was doing anything illegal or breaking any rules, but it felt so surreal, like a memory I would cherish for months to come.
On my trip to Chicago over the weekend, I attended the National Peer Conference on Tutoring in Writing. It was a fabulous experience, full of wisdom and insight from intelligent and outspoken individuals. Though the thirteen hour bus rides to and from were not thrilling, the laugh-out-loud moments with my close friends and the unhealthy, delicious food made up for it.
We visited the Chicago Institute of Art, and later on my group and I gave a presentation on how psychology can help people tutor. I played crazy card games with strangers and made friends from high schools close by and faraway. I heard about a high school in which homosexuality is pretty prominent and classes are driven by intellectual discussion, which made me drool.
But now, I’m back in the basement of my room, writing this with a weird sense of sadness. It’s a delicate melancholy, like that of a trapped bird given a taste of freedom, only to have its wings clipped and its body held in captivity. Already, my mother has lashed out at me, but it’s not that that bothers me – it’s that I could be, I was somewhere so much better just hours ago.
It’s strange, because I’m aware of how much worse others have it. I know that I should be thankful for the opportunity to get away for once, to escape and effusively enjoy life. I am thankful, really, because where I am – where I always have been – has made me appreciate the city, and cultural diversity, and areas which aren’t conservative.
Still, I am selfish. I want to get away. I crave for change, more so for others than for myself, but I want to fully feel what I’m fighting for. I want to walk outside and go to museums and talk to intellectual people without fear. I want to express myself and scream in the streets and love out loud. This is why I need to focus on college applications and learning as much as I can now, to fuel the fire of my power by feeding my desire for knowledge.
One day, when all is said and done, I will go back to those sweet city lights.
This post is inspired by this song and my desire to share how sensational the past few days were. Has anyone else been to Chicago? Does anyone live in a city or want to? I’m contemplating whether I should for a couple of years after college. Now, I am off to an unmoving mattress and sleep!