Do you ever wonder about those you walk past every day? I’m fascinated by people. I’m intrigued by the possibilities in their individual stories.
When I get on the train in Blue Island, Illinois, I’m inundated with story, and I listen hard for the details. It helps me understand people I might otherwise judge based on irrelevant things.
There is a guy on my train, one of the only other white guys who rides in from Blue Island. He’s clean cut with bulging biceps, and by looking at his tattoos and the patches on his gym bag, I would say he’s Navy. He always sits with a group of black ladies in a four seat near the back of the train.
He doesn’t say much, usually just reads his phone or the newspaper.
Once in a while he’ll joke around with them.
But they are all always happy to see each other. Almost co dependent in a way that sets their day in motion or drives it off the tracks if one of them is not there.
There are lots of stories here, and I can feel them starting to take shape. I’m always anxious to know more, but the best stories always reveal things slowly over time.
There is a homeless man who sits on the corner of Wabash and Michigan Ave. He has a nice spot in a small doorway in the concrete pillar of the bridge that crosses the Chicago River there.
Every morning I watch him put his things in order. There is a box, and he organizes the details of it carefully in the quiet moments before the tourists start walking the Magnificent Mile.
He doesn’t pay much attention to the business suits that hurry past him. He just carefully arranges his cardboard sign.
And I think he must have some clout among people who make their living on the street, because sometimes he just leaves his sign there along with his belongings, and no one seems to bother it.
I wonder about his stories. I wonder where he learned to be so detailed and precise. I can’t hear him, I can only watch him bless people as they walk by.
Along Illinois Ave, there is a new building going up across from the AMC movie theater. There is a big sliding gate where the trucks go in and out.
And every morning, I hear tiny bits and pieces of dozens of stories as I walk past it.
A dozen men and a few women stand around the gate and in boots and jeans with neon vests and hard hats adorned with union stickers.
They are waiting to see who doesn’t show up for work today to see if they can get day hired. If they get day hired, they might catch the eye of a foreman if they work hard enough. If they catch the foreman’s eye, they might get picked out of the lineup the next day and the day after, because the permanent guys are always missing work.
They stand around talking and smoking and making fun of the suits as they walk by, and it makes me glad I don’t wear a suite.
But they stare at me as I go by, and I wonder if they wonder what my story is.
There is a high-rise condominium at the end of Illinois where it runs into Lakeshore Drive. And I see a dozen people pour out of it every day as I walk by..
A man whose wife can barely walk helps her into the backseat of a car, and then he holds her for a few minutes, whispering assuring words to her. And I love their story.
A young woman walks out with an angry frown on her face. And I notice a car following her slowly down the road. There is a man inside, and he’s yelling at her through the rolled down window.
He tells her to get in the car, that this is ridiculous. I’ve seen this twice now. And if Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, then I think this fellow has a story too.