#977: Under the Bridge

September 7th, 2018

There’s a culling by commitment in a light rain. A downpour removes all comers, but when the raindrops patter the ground like first kisses — clumsy wet smacks some teenager should apologize for — you can be out-slash-about, but only if you really mean it.

Only the thinnest runners go for their lunch-break jogs in a light rain. Only the smokers with the biggest nic fits or the business types with the most important coffee meets head outside when the rain is cold and inelegant. Only the hardiest tourists who, damn it, only have one week in Chicago so we very much ARE going to drink craft beer under an umbrella along this “River Walk” thank you very kindly make good on their plans.

Only the homeless with the most hungered, crazed or hunger-crazed looks in their eyes ply their trade, exchanging piteous looks for loose change.

The streets are lined with loaner umbrellas advertising local hotels, and with the picket-line protest signs of the hotel workers from those same spots.

The laugh of adventurous paddle-boat riders peals and peels off the river. A Germanic-sounding man asks me how long it would take to walk from downtown to Chinatown while his unamused wife looks on. And there you are, dropping a fishing line in the water from the walking path under the State Street Bridge.

You’re tall and broad, handsome and well-dressed. Your windbreaker looks brand-name, as does your rod. I don’t catch a name on the plastic orange drum-bucket bucket holding tackle and, maybe soon, fish.

I ask about your catch as the rain hits steel above. You smile and say you just got here.

You come here “often,” you say as one or two of the thinnest of joggers in rain-slicked Lycra walk past. You answer all questions posed by a business-dressed white guy, even as you look toward dead water, anxious to get back to your task.

“Perch and catfish,” you say.

“I usually toss them back,” you say.

“No, but my grandma does,” you say.

I’m getting nowhere, and my story would be ruined by taking you too far from your goal. The story isn’t someone talking to me as I amble past in business dress.

The story is a man under a city bridge, culled from the crowd by light rain and commitment, spending a gray, wet, first-kiss afternoon doing what he loves.

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You are currently reading #977: Under the Bridge by Paul Dailing at 1,001 Chicago Afternoons.

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