A few days after we sold our condo the buyer had their inspection, which meant Har and I had to leave the grounds for a bit. It was a snowy February night, we weren’t really sure where to go, so we ended up walking to a cozy little neighborhood bar called Bucktown Pub. Har and I had a couple of beers and tried not to think about strangers “inspecting” every nook and cranny of our home.
There’s a lot of things I love about Chicago, one of them is the fact a girl and her dog can go drink a couple of beers on a Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. and no one thinks twice about it.
While sitting in Bucktown Pub I tried to make myself feel better by making a, “Good Bye Chicago,” list. It was a list of our all favorite restaurants, bars, shows, and everything in between we wanted to hit up before we left the city we loved so much. It was going to be hard to leave, but at least we could make it a long good bye. Do all of our favorite things one last time in the final months we had left. Our friends were going to throw us a little going away party the weekend of the river dying, or so we thought.
A few weeks later, sometime around early March, Chris was working in San Francisco for a week when I texted him, “you may wanna come home early, things are getting a little nutty around here.” The shelves were emptying out in grocery stores, you couldn’t cough in public without feeling weird about it, and there was even talk of sports being cancelled. SPORTS! Can you imagine? No one could at the time.
Of course Chris knew all of this in San Fransisco, it was worse there than Chicago, but still, it wasn’t that bad. Yet.
The night before Chris flew home I did a panic grocery store run at 10 p.m. It had just been announced that Tom Hanks tested positive and for some reason that did it for me. If Tom Hanks could get it, no one was safe. He’s Tom Hanks, for God’s sake! I bought about ten days worth of food, which for us children-less city dwellers, was a lot. Our “pantry” consisted of two cabinets, which were typically used for storing chips and alcohol. Chris came home to find boxed rice, cans of soup and vegetables, and jugs of water stocked in our guest room.
“What’s the water for?” he asked.
“Uh, you know, in case the water factory people get sick. We may need this.”
“The water factory?” He wasn’t buying it.
“Yup,” I nodded. The water factory.
Okay, I won’t bullshit, I had no idea why I bought the water. I saw someone else with a cart full and I panicked. In my defense I only bought three, and I think it’s worth noting we actually moved with that water and I drank it at the cabin in Nebraska. To prove a point? Or because we really needed it? Doesn’t matter.
Day by day, things started to shut down. The talk of “what if,” slowly became, “what is.”
“What if we can’t move?” I was the first to say it, but we’d both been thinking it.
“We have to move.”
It suddenly felt like we were at the top of what could be a really bad waterfall effect. If we couldn’t move, our buyer couldn’t move, and her new leaser couldn’t move, and how far down the line did all of this go? In a city, where timing the moving in/out homes with so many different people is like a perfectly choreographed dance, we were terrified at throwing everything off- especially with talk of a shelter in place coming very very soon. If we stayed, how many people did that put out?
What do we do? What do we do? What do we do?
Hmm, I thought. I’ve got an idea! How about we argue about it?
Yes, said Chris. That sounds great!
And so we argued for several days, even though we both knew we wanted the same solution, our fears and worries assured us arguing would be more productive. Unfortunately, they lied to us. (Again.)
When I look back on this time, when no decision felt like the right one, I can feel the weight of our anxiety and stress still to this day. We knew what we had to do, we just didn’t want to do it. I also realize now that the majority of the world felt this way. We were all facing our own moves, with tough decisions we didn’t want to make as we walked into unknown territory no one knew how to navigate.
So we moved up closing date, our movers, and more or less left Chicago in 24 hours. We said no good byes, had no final farewell dinner, and spent the last night on an air mattress in our living room. When Harlow started to go up our staircase, as he did every night when it was “bed time,” we had to tell him no. That was no longer our bedroom upstairs.
He stared at us, half way up the stairs, with a look of confusion.
“What do you mean that’s not the bedroom? That’s where we sleep. It’s bed. Let’s go.”
“Not tonight, Har. Not anymore.”
Our last night on Noble street was a hard one. I’d never left somewhere I loved before. Every previous place we lived before were rentals, they never truly felt like ours. But Noble, Noble was our home. I thanked it before we moved in and I did the same when we left. It had been so good to us.
As we left Chicago for the final time, Chris driving the U-Haul full of our plants in front of me, Har and I in our car behind, I couldn’t look back at the skyline. I loved it too much to leave it like this.
I love the brownstones of Lincoln Park, driving down Lake Shore Drive, every single park Har and I went to, from Oz to Pulaski, beers at Wrigley, the summer festivals that charged a “complimentary entrance fee,” the smelly corner bars, the greasy cheese curds, Bloody Marys with beer backs, the awful long O accents, the way Division street came alive in the summer, the crazy drivers on 94, the terrible open mics where no one listens to your jokes but you keep going anyway, I love all of it. Because it’s Chicago. And the only part that makes me feel a little less sad about leaving it all behind is that I never took it for granted. Up until the very end, even after living in the city nearly a decade, I still walked around with wide eyes and gratitude that I got the privilege to live in a city I loved so much. How lucky was I?