All day long, I’ve been old.
Because all day long I’ve been thinking that when I’m an old lady and people ask me about stuff that happened in Chicago when I was younger, I’ll be able to say, “I was in Chicago when the Cubs won the World Series in ’16. That, my holographic friend, was cool.”
(I figure there will be a holographic element of our digital lives at that point and that it will be entirely pointless but really fun, like Snapchat.)
I hope my memory lasts a long time because I don’t ever want to forget last night or the feeling of lightness and joy in Chicago today.
Just in case I do forget, I’m going to write down just how it happened; that way, if someone asks me where I was when the Cubs won in ’16, I can just read this.
I was at a theater earlier in the evening watching my friend Susan Of The Wonderful Laugh in a big storytelling event. Even with the big game going on, the Athenaeum Theater was full. The show’s emcees kept the audience up to date on the score throughout the show because even though people at the theater were obviously not die-hard Cubs fans — if they were, they were dying, hard — we were all buzzing, tense. Because the World Series this year ceased to be about baseball weeks ago. The Cubs being so close to winning was about chance. Change. Obstacles and overcoming. The Cubs at the Series was about universal stuff irresistible to any audience of any kind, anywhere.
By the end of the show — not that anyone was surreptitiously checking her phone during curtain call — the Cubs had lost the lead. The teams were tied 6 – 6. Just like that, the confidence the audience had allowed ourselves during the show was gone. It was a dreadful, wretched feeling.
Susan and her friends offered to drive me to the train after the show, but I declined. There was something I had to do. Deep in my heart, I felt it: I needed to get on a bike and bike home.
It’s a ways from the Athenaeum to the South Loop. But I needed to make contact with the night. I wanted to hear people cheering from the bars — and if they cried or wailed, I wanted to hear that, too. I wanted to breathe the night air, the electric air in my city. The need was overwhelming to experience the rest of the evening in that particular way at that important moment. There was a bank of bikeshare bikes outside the theatre; I’m a card-carrying, devoted member. I bid adieu to Susan and her friends, checked out a bike, and began my ride.
All the way down Lincoln, the humanity was almost too much to bear. In every single bar there were people packed inside, faces upturned to screens, watching with anguish and untenable expectation. I saw people praying. I saw people literally biting off their nails.
Near Oz Park, I came upon a huge number of bike cops who had all put their bikes down and were crowding around a pizza joint and a bar and a falafel place, all trying to get a view of a screen. Not too far from them I came upon another pack of cops. I didn’t understand at first but then realized, oh, they’re mobilizing for the end of the game. Win or lose, it’s gonna be a hell of a night. I can’t tell you how tense everything was, how dead the streets were, how every tree and traffic light felt invested in the moment.
I rolled on, peddling faster, now; I needed to park the bike and see for myself what was going on. But I didn’t want to get stranded anywhere. Why wasn’t there more noise? Shouldn’t the Cubbies be scoring a point? Why weren’t people cheering, shouting?? I started doing ridiculous, magical thinking in my head: If I get this green light, they’ll do it. If I sing a song. No, no, that’s silly. The lesson here, I thought as I crossed into the Loop, is to let it go. Just let it go. It’s out of your hands. It’s just a game. Even if they don’t win, they got so far. It’s baseball. It’s baseball.
By the time I got home, I knew something must have been horribly wrong. It was well past 11 p.m. I had biked seven miles in about 39 minutes. The city had not erupted in cheers, in 1,000,000 ticker-tape parades. I docked my bike and ran to my building, stabbed at the elevator buttons, and finally got to my unit. I turned on the radio just as my sister texted me, deeply troubled. Tenth inning. And the rain delay.
The radio announcers seemed to be in almost physical agony. My muscles were tight. I poured a little gin but couldn’t even drink it. I turned on my sewing machine and made Log Cabin blocks while I listened. And waited. And didn’t breathe.
And then it happened.
The city broke open.
The South Loop erupted all over with joy. My windows were open and the moment the Cubs won, cars in the streets below honked and honked and honked and people shouted, “Hurrah! Hurrah!” and “Cubbies Win! They won! They [BEEP] won! Yeaaaaahhhhhhh!” and “Woooooooo-HOOOOOOOOOOO!” Fireworks — real fireworks! — from three different places in the immediate area began to go off. Pew! Pew! Zeeeee-pew! Shouts and laughter, whoops and hoopla, beautiful hoopla all over town. It was bliss. It was every Christmas morning, I swear, that feeling of yes.
I was making squeaking and yipping sounds, hopping and jumping in my apartment, texting my sister furiously and then I’d just burst out laughing with happiness and excitement for the pure joy of long overdue change and victory! I stuck my head out the window and joined the chorus of voices across the mid-rise buildings: “Yaaaaay! Go Cubs! Go Cubs! Yay! Yay!!! Yes!!!” The guy one floor up from me was calling out, too, and we laughed and called to each other: “Go Cubs! They won! They won!”
Did you know there are 108 stitches in a baseball? Did you know?