It’s really here: I’m in my final moments as a resident of Chicago. And I’m losing it.
I have 24 hours to tie up the move-out, then I give keys to “the gang,” a.k.a. the medical students who are soon going to be living in my home.
“Home” is a rich and achingly pretty word because within it, you have the “oh” sound, and oh, oh, oh, I am in pain.
After my divorce, I moved downtown. After all that turmoil and fear, I had to either leave Chicago forever or find a New Chicago. I chose the latter. I remember thinking, “Don’t throw the baby out, Fons. Don’t leave Chicago. You have a life here.” After living on the northside for ten years, the shift downtown was striking and did the trick: coming down here was absolutely like moving to another city but I retained my network and my knowledge of the place. Sure enough, in my New Chicago, I created an entirely new life. I had to.
I found a space that sang. A sunlit, wide-open, gem of a condo in the South Loop. It was love at first sight. When the realtor opened the door to what would become my unit (such a clinical-sounding term for a piece of my heart) I tried not to gape. Gorgeous. Wide. South-facing windows. Two bathrooms with these cool bell-jar-like light fixtures. One exposed brick wall. It was a doorman building with a rooftop deck. There was a garbage chute, too — and I dreamed of a garbage chute! There was an elevator and a mailroom and cleaners on-site. The best part: it was actually below my budget. After the darkness of my failed marriage, the impossible had happened: I was in love again.
One of the first things I did when I moved in was have a professional muralist paint a trompe l’oeil on the west- and south-facing walls. I wanted a faint, French drawing room panel motif over all that cream. The artist exceeded my expectations; the funny thing about art you paint on the walls, however, is that you cannot take it with you. So goodbye, mural.**
When I moved in, I had an ostomy bag. I don’t have one now, so the space saw me heal. It also saw me in grave peril last fall, when I was in the hospital every month for several months. The paramedics came for me just one time, busting in the door; usually I’d take a taxi up Michigan Avenue to Northwestern and check myself in — I even took the bus once — but that time, I was in so much pain, I couldn’t see. My home saw all that. It saw me come home thinner and depressed.
My home saw me foolish, that’s for sure. A collection of late nights, dubious houseguests, wine glasses, etc.; these are in the portfolio.
I wrote my book here. I made Quilty here. I dreamed a thousand things, made good on most of them. I fell in love here, too, and not just with the space. I mean that I fell in love here, with two different human beings. Yuri is one, and that’s all I’ll say about that.
I’m excited for New York City. Without question, saying yes to the love in my life, Yuri, this lion of a person, this force of nature, this is right. But today, as the sun glitters off the lake and the happy people of Chicago go about their merry ways, my heart is breaking. This is too hard.
I’m probably just crispy from the travel this week, emotional because dinner last night was a McDonald’s caramel sundae (long story.)
All my love, Chicago. Just know that you have it all.
* Visit my Instagram page (username: yomaryfons) for images of the mural. I’ll put them up shortly.