The man on the platform stood too close behind me and gave a grin.
“Pauly!” he said.
“Steve!” I replied.
Ten years later, there we were.
I’ve known Steve since I moved to Chicago, when we both worked giving tours and lifting and hauling on one of the “To your left, Sears Tower!” boat companies that haunts the river. We would drink together after shifts and trade jokes, part of a crew that felt young, foolish and immortal.
I’ve seen him in the years since, of course. We’ve run into each other at shows, once at Pitchfork. We’ve seen each other a few times on the street. We’re Facebook friends too.
Steve asked how I was doing in a clownish Chicago accent — a running joke from the old days. We stepped on the just-arrived Blue Line, two hollow-eyed artists with wild brown hair and business attire. He’s a bit taller and has a beard.
We’re two old friends who didn’t so much keep in touch as kept showing up at the same places, at the same shows, in the same neighborhoods. Two men chasing each other around Chicago, through lives that just keep showing up in the same spot.
We both work with lawyers now; he at a firm, me at a trade publication. We no longer have to turn in our uniforms at the end of the day, but ride the Blue Line home in shirts and ties.
We were tired, both of us. Until we asked about each others’ art. Then we both went on fire.
I talked about this project, about chasing Chicago word by word. Steve talked about his music, his upcoming CD, the need he felt to make a tangible item even though downloads were cheaper and easier to produce.
We’ve both been chasing words and music for a decade in and out of this cutthroat town. We both still work at day so we can do our real Work at night. We’re both on the path to something we burn for and even if we don’t make it past where we are now, just being on that path so many others jump off of is the win we’re hoping for.
I had to get off the train early to run to the bank. I wonder where Steve and I will be when we run into each other next.