Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Fog

Posted By on 03.09.10 at 12:13 PM

fog.jpg
Fog came in and hid the skyscrapers just as the last of the graying milky daylight faded. The light from street lamps reached no more than a few feet in any direction before being subsumed by the murky cotton wadding that bound all forms to one another. Once familiar streets were transformed now into stage sets for gothic tales or slasher flicks. The change wasn't entirely unwelcome. It's not every day that the back of the hand changes into an inscrutable riddle.

The first passengers that took notice were four Native Americans returning from the north side to the Marriott on Michigan Avenue. In town from all over the country for the pow wow next weekend, they told of life on the res and asked Chicago tourist questions—no use telling them that the Sears Tower has been renamed since their last visit and that the man who designed it passed away this very day. Instead, as we drove south on Lake Shore Drive, I told them how to get to Pizzeria Uno from their hotel and pointed out the left windows to where the lake would usually be. Not only was there no lake, northbound traffic wasn't much more than disembodied headlights gone as soon as they'd turn up. They didn't believe that the entrance we stopped at led to their lodgings. It took some reassuring before they were persuaded to disembark. It just wasn't a night for certainty.

A girl headed to Lakeview questioned the route I was taking, remaining dubious in the face of a detailed and logical explanation. Being second-guessed doesn't do much for anyone's disposition, so a tense silence followed. "Look at all this fog," she said, voice filled with wonder as she, too, looked out the window to where the lake should have been. The bad feelings dissipated into awe. The car ahead of us felt with its front wheels for the proper lane, as with a blind man's cane, slowing then speeding, trying in vain to approximate a steady clip. She asked how I liked driving in this, and I answered that "like" and "drive" don't often meet in the same sentence no matter what the condition of the road. We parted as friends.

Landmarks left no trace. Navy Pier was swallowed whole. I had the less-than-charitable thought that it might not be spit back up once this pea soup lifted, but the famous ferris wheel finally came back into view. No skyline, no grid, only gaseous drifts revealing the nearest corners of buildings with no apparent tops or sides; this Monday was made strange by myopia.

A man teetered into my path, white captain's cap perched slightly askew atop his head. He hurried his lady in before following her aboard. If their vessel had run aground, it wasn't due to any atmospheric conditions; their haze was of a more mundane variety. They took no notice of much beyond the private joke that kept them in stitches through the journey home. Then finding my recompense became its own kind of odyssey, as the captain groped in remote and obscure pockets. The fog outside matched the fog they'd plumbed in the depths of a bottle. The city will crystallize once more, but will they?

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