Thursday, January 23, 2014

Derrick: Man in the Big City

Due to popular demand, today I’m going to tell the story of how Derrick moved to Chicago.

I’d like to start by first saying how legit I feel for using the words “due to popular demand.”  Granted, by popular I mean that about five people asked me to do this.  But that’s more people than who asked Kim Kardashian to reproduce and I’ll be damned if she didn’t do it anyway.

So I left off a very, very long story with me moping around after a bunch of men in rainbow leotards stopped me from buying a gallon of milk.  Based on the absurdity of that sentence, you’d think that Derrick’s move involved something crazy or romantic (or crazy romantic).  Like surprising me when I least expected it.  Or arriving to Chicago via parachute.

But it didn’t.  It was actually a well-planned and completely expected incident that happened about five months after I moved here.

That was about four and a half months after Derrick visited me for the first time.  I know what you’re thinking: he probably got to Chicago and absolutely fell in love with the energetic city, adored my vintage little studio apartment, and was completely enamored by me his entire four day visit, so much so that he couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.

That was certainly the plan, anyway.  Unfortunately, that is not the way this story goes.  No, this story goes something like this:

A few weeks after I moved, Derrick came to visit.  He arrived around noon in a very strange land, a land where (unlike Florida) winter is a thing.  I had just started at my job so I couldn’t take off to meet him at the airport.  Instead, I gave him directions on how to get to my office via public transportation: “Get on the train and come here.  Text me when you’re in the lobby.”

So like Babe in the Big City, Derrick had no choice but to face the unknown.  And luckily for everyone, he got to my office.  Again, I was new and didn’t want to be labeled as the sketchy girl who disappears for hours, so I met him for 20 minutes at the coffee shop in my office building’s lobby.

I was elated and Derrick was cold.

So that he didn’t have to wait around for me in a Corner Shop Bakery all afternoon, I told him what bus to take to get to my neighborhood and drew him a quick map to show him how to get to my apartment from the bus stop.  For good measure, I wrote down my new address.

The map, if I remember, looked a bit like this:

Addresses are funny things though, in that they’re all about the details.  In some situations, rearranging a 5 and a 3 might not be a huge deal.  But when you’re writing down an address, the difference between 532 and 352 is pretty significant.  Especially when 532 exists and 352 does not.

So within the first hour of being in a new city, Derrick was sitting in a hospital lobby.

Before you panic (like I did when he texted me, telling me where he was), it wasn’t due to injury.  Unless you count being lost on a foreign street in 20 degree weather wearing a hoodie an injury.  Or having a scatterbrained girlfriend.

In my defense, I had only just moved a few weeks ago and had a million new numbers running through my head: addresses, phone numbers, bus routes, and a whole law firm’s worth of file codes.  I had gotten all of the numbers of my address right; the order was just a bit off.

You would have hoped that my map would have offset my temporary dyslexia but, conveniently, I did not label any directions.  If the map would have been helpful if he had not been reading it upside down, the world will never know.

Luckily though, compared to the catastrophic beginning to his trip, the rest was reasonably tame.  I had to work during the week but we had a solid weekend of tourist-ing.

Other than that, we ate a lot, lay around a fair bit, and just generally tried to keep warm.

But like all good things, his trip came to an end.  Seeing him go was extremely difficult for me because I had no idea if I would be seeing him again, and certainly did not know when.

So when did he tell me he was coming?  I remember the exact moment: I had called him on my way to the gym, just to chat.  I was missing him a lot that day so, with my usual subtle grace, I blurted out midway through the conversation, “Are you ever going to come here again?!”

And he said, “Actually, I was thinking I was going to come at the beginning of August.”

“Really?! For how long?”

“I mean like, move there, Nicole.”

I was standing in the CVS next to my gym when he told me and I have never in my life been so happy in a drug store.  In my usual fashion, I started shooting off a million questions: “Are you going to live with me?” “What are you going to do?” “What about your job now?” “Did you tell your parents?”  The answer to most of which was: “I don’t know.”

But he figured it out and in August, after coming on vacation with me and my family, he was here in Chicago.

Knowing what I know now, I am shocked that he decided to move here.  Since August, he has confessed that he did not really like it here when he visited: it was cold, it was loud, it was dirty and had too many people (many of whom were dirty), the water in my apartment didn’t work, the radiators made funny noises, and he didn’t know a soul here.

But he did it anyway.

The first few months before he found a job were hard on both of us and hell, it’s still hard here sometimes.  But him being here has not just made things easier; it has genuinely made life joyful.  I apologize for going Ms. Hallmark on you but it’s the truth.  I didn’t realize how unhappy I was missing him until I didn’t have to miss him anymore.  Like I said, it’s still hard (I mean, it’s still life… not a Nicholas Sparks book).  But I can truthfully say that I am happy, and I owe a lot of that to him.

So to wrap up the second of a series of personal novels I seem to be writing, that is how Derrick came to be a Chicagoan.  For how long he will be one, I don’t know… but I fully intend on being wherever he ends up next.

Happy Thursday!
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