Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Secret Gift

You know you are having a good day when it is raining and grey and oddly humid, and all you can think of is how the fog makes you feel like you live in a magic city. I love when half of the Hancock Tower is missing, tucked in the drapery of the clouds like Jack's fabled bean-stock. Today is a day that I can believe someone planted a magic beam and grew the Hancok Tower.

Today is also a day when the smell of a dampened raincoat sticks in my nose for no reason. Well, other than that it is raining, which makes me think of raincoats, but I haven't actually had a shiny, snap-festooned, heavy-as-a-dental-x-ray-smock raincoat since age 11. But today I can't get that rubberized plastic scent to leave my sinuses alone. Maybe because my rainboots are broken and I long for splash-worthy outerwear? I don't know.

There is something about splashing in puddles without fear of wearing puddles that makes me happy. When I first bought my now-gimpy rainboots, I found every puddle on every walk to plunge into, just because I could. Which might explain why they now leak. That and my aforementioned proclivity for shoving extra jean material where it doesn't belong. Anyway, in releasing my, (well, not so much inner child as actual personality,) I have discovered lots of sidewalk cupfuls of beautiful hearts. Everywhere there are heart-shaped potholes in the sidewalks of Chicago. My favorite part of these accidental works of art is that they are usually full of dirty water and old cigarettes. They are like concrete spring, emerging out of the dead of winter, still grey and downtrodden, but a familiar signifier of beauty just the same.

So I have been taking pictures of them. There is one in particular, just outside of (I am reluctant to even tell you for fear it will no longer just be my secret cheer, but it needs to be told,) the North and Clybourn el stop, next to a signpost. It is crinkled in the corners like a happy heart with crow's feet. It has, without fail, a cigarette or a train ticket submerged in its puckered depths. It is unmistakably a heart, no misshapen curves or too-wide humps. I have taken several pictures of it. I even bought a tiny silver frame with a red grograin ribbon to give to someone as a present.

But I haven't been able to do it. I don't know who to give it to. My secret heart that cheers me up on raincoat-scented days. My smiling, muddy friend who sends cigarette winks my way. I think because it is mine I am having trouble giving it away. So, my friend, you are a secret gift with a secret destination. And someone will get you soon. Maybe wrapped in a raincoat.

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