#909: Dancing Among Ghosts

April 2nd, 2018

The sunlit morning invited. It was cool and sharp, crisp and wonderful. It asked the city to dance. So we did.

A springtime dance with a city isn’t your normal nightclub shimmy. It’s a complex, choreographed number set to the tune of car horns, train rattles and the few chirping birds giving this whole “spring” thing a tentative go.

We dance among each other, bowing and curtsying out of the way. We stand and sit to give others seats on trains. We hustle up the tempo to sashay just a touch faster past the ones whose role in the dance is to beg for change. We stop and pirouette when encountering an old friend on the sidewalk, a momentary pas de deux before rejoining the grand ballet.

And we dance among ghosts, if we know enough.

Downtown, we dance with the lionized settlers and demonized natives on the bridge carvings we’ve walked past so often they’ve vanished to our eyes. Our morning commutes bend and blur with the invisible 1940s workmen who painted the now-peeling signs for long-dead companies that still haunt some buildings along the train route. The invisible architects who lined the river with ornate ’20s masterpieces promenade with their coke-fueled 1980s peers and whatever the hell they were thinking.

Our partners in this morning ballet aren’t limited by place or time. The titans of industry with busts shaped like Pez dispensers by the Merchandise Mart are as much a part of our mornings as the woman whose last-minute demi-tour saved her from spilling Starbucks on the stroller. Our references blur, one morning jogger becoming another and another until we just see the tight-clad athlete as an avatar of every jogger we’ve come across anywhen or where.

To the tune of birds and morning construction, we dance our way past battlefields and gangland slay sites. We dance our way in rising sun past where long-forgotten drunks kissed and canoodled under lamplight. Someone was born here. Someone died here. Someone fell and skinned their knee and promptly forgot about such a boring incident in their life.

But it happened here.

Our morning dance with ghosts and peers is forgettable too. Our brains aren’t built to recognize the common, just to note the differences so we’re primed for action when a saber-toothed tiger pops out. So even as I write about this morning’s walk, I know the memories of sun glinting off the water will mesh with all the other times I’ve seen that river. I’ll forget if I ran into and caught up with Tom on a Monday commute or a Thursday lunch run. I won’t recall whether I stood by the bust of Du Sable today or if this was the day I sat and watched the water from beside the Apple store that looks like a MacBook.

This morning’s dance will remain as forgotten and forgettable as every other morning spring birds chirped in sunny skies.

Read more on those chirping little things

Read more about the common

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You are currently reading #909: Dancing Among Ghosts by Paul Dailing at 1,001 Chicago Afternoons.

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