#855: Glass and Rust

November 27th, 2017

Dawn is odd to colorblind eyes. It’s a mixture of orange and green, a color pairing that makes perfect sense to my particular visual defects but earns blinks and confusion when described.

It’s OK. My version of reality is prettier than yours. Even when seen from a 6 a.m. train rumbling toward a city of glass.

The backstory is Thanksgiving, and a half day at work the next day. An hour car ride from my Illinois hometown to an hour train ride from the nearest suburb made more sense than the other options, so I found myself trundling eastward from a stop called Big Timber before the sun rose.

The ride beneath skies the color of a Miami Hurricanes jersey was nice, pleasant, nothing. Due to post-holiday emptiness, the conductors were telling people to use their one-way passes as return tickets, but managing each time to sound like it was a secret deal just because they liked how each rider’s jib was cut.

We rolled past the section of suburbs that bravely defy the stereotype of wealth and safe havens. We rolled past the economic rot that I, while searching for less-grandiose phrasing, register as America. Strip malls and houses lined with car parts. Beautiful homes skittering miles away from sad ones. People scared to look as poor as they are, moving heaven, hell and credit limit to appear they’re just having a temporary downslump.

But poverty porn is a trap, and pity as enslaving as romance. I won’t talk about the lives outside my train’s safety-glass windows, neither to condemn them or praise some “real America” Trumpism. They’re Americans, people, Midwesterners — nondual from my city boy life of Americans, people, Midwesterners. Some are nice, some are jackasses (the three kids who gathered in the trainyard to hurl rocks at my return trip spring to mind for the latter), but it’s just rude to wax poetic 1,001 times on each Chicagoan I cross and lump all others as others.

I was off to Chicago, to a few hours work and then a camaraderic beer with coworkers before returning to my family weekend. I was off to glass towers a thousand feet tall, to lazy riverwalks free of all but a few brave joggers and one woman who glowed and said “Good morning!” when she saw me come by. I was off on a trial version of a commute, the same early-day slog from burb to burg, just a few thousand carloads short of the usual crowd.

The rest of the trundling millions clotting highways and train cars like the plaque in their arteries got leftover pie and late rise times. I got an empty path to a city of glass, cutting through a field of rust.

Read a random story from the archives

On days I know there won’t be many readers, I write really stupid stories that amuse no one but me. Friday was such a day.

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You are currently reading #855: Glass and Rust by Paul Dailing at 1,001 Chicago Afternoons.

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