by: Bobby Crowley
The other night was fucking wild. A long string of unlikely mayhem-like events that evoked some interesting reflecting on my part and a long night of peaceful sleep was not what I had expected. But, I am so glad it happened.
The other night was no special night, it seemed just like all the others. I am visiting my best friend in Chicago, for Pride, to find an apartment in the fall and for a few other reasons. So far, the trip had been quite normal. I figured the other night seemed like it would be just a similar addition to the rest of my relatively normal trip. I figured wrong.
I decided to go see All The Writers I Know, because I knew it would be beautiful and amazing and inspiring. It was all of those things, of course. I brought my best friend along with me because I didn’t know the way and I was, after all, here to see her. After the writers were all finished “Melting Faces with their words,” as ellie said, I left, almost in a hurry, because I had this alarming feeling that I had to. It was strange, but I follow my instincts, even if they seem odd.
We went to the blue line stop to pick up our other friend, and once she arrived, we walked back to this beautiful sushi place we had seen on the way. I had the most amazing maki I had ever eaten and some wicked tempura ice cream. The meal astounded me for reasons I cannot explain. Maybe it was because I had my first time eating fish eggs and no mother fish ran up to me and slapped me with her fin, like I always thought would happen as a child. Maybe I could just feel what the night had in store for me.
We left the restaurant and chartered the 72 back to North and Clybourn. This is where the night got interesting. All of a sudden, after a few stops, the bus turned onto the expressway with no notification or announcement to the passengers. Apparently we weren’t far behind another 72 and we had to find a way around it, missing a lot of stops on the way. Without knowing for sure, we concocted reasons we were on expressway: we were now enacting the plot from the movie Speed, that this was the bus driver’s impromptu and hostile retirement, and that this was the bus version of Cash Cab. I don’t know why, but all of these ideas made this simple maneuver so much more exciting.
The bus ended up right where we were getting off and we transferred to the Red line. I, of course, hustled down the stairs to see if the rumbling noise was coming to our side of the tracks. It wasn’t, and when I realized this, I also noticed my friends weren’t behind me anymore. I panicked and ran up the escalator. The CTA pass machine had taken my friend’s 30 day pass and decided to keep it. As my best friend and I warned following pedestrians of the evil machine, the guard at the stop was explaining that we needed to go to Fullerton and get it worked out with the attendant there.
He let us go and we began to run downstairs, just as a new rumbling started to slow on our track. I raced down to catch the train and suddenly realized, I was that asshole you love to hate. I slipped my body in between the closing doors and held them open for my friends. Needless to say, the operator was pissed. After some shouting on the speakers about us holding back the train, she proceeded forward.
We didn’t get very far, when suddenly our train stopped. The woman on the speaker announced that there was a fire on the tracks in front of us and if we would please be patient she would appreciate it. As all of the passengers grumbled or outright shouted their disapproval, a few men stood up and announced they were musicians who would make the time go by a little with a few performances and a kind suggestion that we tip if we like what we hear. They were beautiful.
I suddenly felt so excited, that I was meant to be there at that moment. After a pause in music, the man behind me said something about me holding up the train and causing us to be stuck in this commotion. To which, I snarkily replied that had I not held up the train, he would be on fire and he should feel lucky to stand so close to a hero. I believe I even said I deserved a medal. At that moment, I realized this could have actually been true. Had we not gone on the expressway, lost my friend’s CTA pass, and held up the train, something bad might have happened. Even if it wasn’t true, just the possibility of its truth made me feel ethereal.
I began to look around at the people I felt I had been meant to meet, to spend some quality time with. I wondered what their lives were like and what they were feeling, other than impatience, at that moment. I took the only bill in my wallet and gave it to the musicians and they continued to sing to us. I’m pretty certain that was a bill much higher than a one, but I didn’t care, because it felt right. After a few performances, a passenger even began to sing with them to add some female harmony. It was beautiful. It was one of those moments where you think to yourself that this city, this world, despite its many mishaps and dangers can be so beautiful even in times of mayhem.
After about thirty minutes without air conditioning or major lights, during which the man behind me had opened the doors to let some air in, a CTA man walked back to us to close the door and tell us about the fire. He mentioned the words “too burnt track” and “dangerous to move.” Then, about a minute after he disappeared, we pulled forward across the too burnt tracks that were dangerous to move over. We lived, of course, but there was a moment I doubted that possibility.
We finally pulled up to Fullerton, fully believing our night of crazy was over. We were wrong, again. We went down to the kiosk, as told, but no one was there. I sat down on the silver stand below the television as my friend repeatedly hit the service button. I got bored and, apparently, I began to sing. I do this from time to time without really realizing it’s happening. Suddenly a young, drunk guy walked by and held his hand out to me. He clasped my hand for a second, looking into my eyes with sympathy, and walked away. I realized that with my ripped hose, my rocking I’ve been doing since childhood, and my singing, this man thought I was homeless. I sort of laughed at first at that possibility, but I wasn’t sure why. Then, I realized, this man held out his hand to a supposed homeless person and offered his sympathy. How often does that happen? I was suddenly electrified by his bold kindness. Yes, he was drunk, but he reached out and touched a person who is often even ignored by the people who pass, considered untouchable and invisible. I couldn’t stop thinking about this for the rest of the night.
Finally, the attendant gave my friend a temporary pass till her shiny new thirty day one comes in AND a $20 pass on top of that one as if that hadn’t been enough. We got back onto the train going to Howard and sat down. Suddenly, I realized I knew the person we were sitting next to. I asked her if she had worked at a pizza place I went to often during school and she said yes, how she had been trying to pretend she hadn’t recognized me because she thought I wouldn’t recognize her. We had a whole conversation about her life and ours and I learned some interesting things about that place that changed my feelings towards it. During this conversation, I kept thinking how I would have never seen this girl or learned everything I did, if all of the former chaos hadn’t occurred.
The whole night had been one randomly surprising and enlightening moment after the next. The expressway, the CTA machine, the held up train, the fire, the confusion, the mistaken identity and random act of kindness, and the rediscovered acquaintance had all felt like they were meant to be. I’m not one for fate talk or spiritual suggestion, but these moments all felt weirdly right. The whole night had made me think more about the world and the impact of a single decision, event, or person in your life. I learned two things I would like to pass on to you, readers, at this moment. Number one, every single moment, decision, and stranger in your world counts and can change your life forever. Never take this for granted. Number two, go see All The Writers I Know, because it’s beautiful and amazing and inspiring and you never know where the night will take you.
Bobby Crowley is a Queer woman with a love for all that is fabulous. She is currently working on her Creative Writing degree at Loyola University where she is also on the board of Advocate and a writer for the alt. magazine LUChameleon. She is in love with Andrea Gibson, her labradaniel puppies, and singing loudly in the shower.