The hot dogs had been eaten, the seventh inning stretched.
We had finished our beers, sang our “Take Me Outs” and, after a 10-inning nail biter saved when Montero cracked a walk-off homer to left field, had screamed and cheered and sang “Go Cubs Go.” The Brewers fan who had heckled and flicked off the field the whole game slunk off with two beautiful friends.
We toddled down from the field, down looping paths of slanted concrete, past various booths in various states of openness selling beer, hot dogs, sweatshirts, Garrett popcorn. As a lumpy blue and red mass, we toddled by skyboxes and branded patio bars, past clogged restroom lines and smiling Cubs staff in various states of suppressed relief.
The mass became a glut outside the gates, a milling, confused clog below the big red sign and by the statue of Ernie Banks.
Some went north, south, east, west. Some hailed pedicabs or car cabs; some wandered in circles looking for their friends; some just stood, blocking paths and debating whether to hit a bar.
Rivulets formed in the crowd, little streams of motion in one direction or the other. We looked for one heading our intended way and grabbed onto that riptide, single-file following a current of strangers through the glut.
Our way headed east on Addison so we could slip north on Sheffield and grab a quick one at the Holiday Club before home. Gates and cloth-covered fences hiding bits of post-Jumbotron renovation pushed our Sheffield jaunt up against the far side of the street.
It squeezed the flow up against the wrought-iron fences of the rooftop buildings, the brownstoney business-homes that become elaborate playgrounds for the well-to-do on game days. Luxury food and luxury party packages for luxury people paying to watch the game from stands built on the roofs peeking Kilroy-Was-Here-style over the bleacher walls.
One of these clubs had a clutch of middle-aged white men with perfect hair, smoking perfect-smelling cigars on the stoop.
Then, out. Past the field, past the other side of the ivy-clad walls. Down sidewalks that in every direction seemed to be slick with men and women in Cubbie blue debating over transit routes or where they paid that guy to let them park their car. Streets were bumper-to with thick SUVs stuffed with smiling blue-clads miming to their loved ones Rizzo’s dive into the stands for a foul in the sixth.
Each step took each fan away from each other.
Each step in every direction meant another path away from the field.
36,000-something people, if I remember the “Guess the Attendance” winner right, were spreading out from a central spot, shooting off tangent in the night down gridded North Side streets, by foot, cab, bus, car, train, Uber. Back to their lives, back to their homes, back to their existences that had no connection other than a passing fondness for blue to the existences of the people they were cheering, yelling, hugging and high-fiving with just minutes before.
At Clark and Addison, an empty field waited for the next day, when it would happen all again.