The ‘L’ track above would have been rumbling had a train been going by.
The streets would have been filled with honks and exhaust had it not been a Sunday.
It would have been dark had there been any clouds.
But instead, on this non-rumbling, non-honking, non-dark slip of the street below the actual loop that gives the downtown its nickname, a little girl was doubled over to shout at a pigeon.
She might have been 5 or so, leaning over with feet planted in that way kids have to point and yell “Ah! Ah! Ah!” at a diseased-looking specimen of the winged rats that haunt Chicago’s Loop.
“Ah! Ah! Ah!” she yelled as her mother and her mother’s friend paid the Daleymeter for the parking tab.
She and her slightly older sister had their hair done up in an intricate system of braids and barrettes that clattered as they swung their heads toward the approaching bird. The little girl’s shout wasn’t quite fear. It was more notification, a signal to her sister and to their younger brother that something new was happening, something interesting.
The bird was a mangy specimen, wet-looking although dry. Its wide yellow eyes glazed blankly as it bobbed forward, forward, forward toward the children.
The little boy was my favorite, I’m not ashamed to say. Maybe 3 or so and dressed in a bright orange polo and child-sized jam-length hip-hop shorts, he pushed past his sister — half a gesture of protection, half one of wanting to get closer to the excitement. He crawled under her pointing arm and pushed back, putting himself between her and the yellow-eyed monster.
The pigeon bobbed on.
I continued to the play.
A cup of coffee and a doughnut from 7-Eleven, two Paul-style wrong turns down bad streets and maybe a block or so took me to The Goodman, where the lady and I had tickets to see “By the Way, Meet Vera Stark.” (Excellent, BTW.)
On that same bright, sunny, non-rumbling, non-dark, non-exhausty early Sunday afternoon, I walked up sipping my coffee as a woman on crutches came the other way.
I don’t know how she managed to get in front of me, now that I think of it. It would seem a small street person with wild eyes and crutches wouldn’t be able to outmaneuver a grown man, but there she was.
“Can you help me get something to eat?” she asked.
“Sorry,” I said, walking by.
I went to sit in the sun and wait for the lady.
A white man with a suit coat and earpiece was watching the door of The Goodman, watching the old men and women, the ladies with their church hats and the young fat fella assembling a Rascal scooter in I swear to god a utilikilt wander up, assembling from nowhere to trickle into the play. From across the street, “Caution: Gate is about to close” played on repeat.
The white man with the earpiece eyed the woman on crutches. He started walking toward her, following slightly after. He took care not to be seen, just trailed 10 or so yards after the street woman to ensure she kept walking and bothered no more patrons.
He put himself between us and the woman bobbing on, the street woman on crutches pecking around for something to eat.