River Front Walk
Dear Ajijic News Readers,
I saw a group of people on the River Walk in downtown Chicago, where I live. I live in Chicago, the outskirts, not downtown actually. This group was standing in front of the concrete stairs in the middle of the River Walk. These stairs are pedestrian ones. They are used for important downtown workers trying to look common and relaxed and having lunch or a coffee. This group standing before the sitters and luncheoners was all dressed in black and yelling at sitters and trying to talk to them.
I sat at the front to see what they were selling. I was not going to buy. I was curious.
One man, the tallest amongst them, came forward. The people dressed in black looked at him adoringly. The others looked at their cell phones or tablets or coffee or sandwiches wrapped in paper. I looked up at him.
It was amazing. He spoke not a word yet all listened to him.
He scanned us all, moving his head with a fresh trimmed dark beard, taking us in with soul searching eyes.
“Join us. Join us,” he said. His voice was deep and soft.
He looked at me. Yes, me. Directly at me.
“You,” he said, “Join us.”
“Me?” I said.
“Yes, you. Who else here is as lost at you? I will tell you: NO ONE!”
I ask you, how did he know me so well? I wish someone was there with me. Maybe they could have seen I am not a hermit.
“I have a friends!” I said.
They all laughed. The ones in the dark uniforms were joined by the others sitting behind me. They looked away from their cell phones and lunches and looked at me.
“Ha!” their leader said. “Where are they?”
“All over the world,” I said.
“Hey, followers, and lovers everywhere,” Leader said, “this man claims to have friends all over the world. This lonely sad man with no future says he has international friends. Do you believe him?”
“NOOOO!” Their ‘NO’ was thunderous and could be heard up on Michigan Ave above the river and through the roaring cars and busses and constant sirens.
I began hearing ‘NO’s from all over. The passing tourist boats rang their horns and all the occupants yelled. The taxis from above honked their horns in unison and not at jay walkers nor other taxi’s nor busses nor cars cutting in front of them. They aimed their loud venom at me.
Then I saw Leader nod to his followers. He approached me. I was lifted by two large strong hands under my arm pits. It was an odd feeling and I could not remember if I had even put deodorant on that morning. I don’t think it mattered.
“What are you doing?” I yelled. I was even louder than the leader.
“We are giving you your freedom. A new life. A baptism first,” he said.
Then, and you are not going to believe this, they threw me into the water, the Chicago River, the disgusting polluted and filled with who knows what Chicago River.
I was falling, then swimming and realized I did not want to return to the surface. I did not want to return to the alarm in the morning to remind me to start my same day again and again. I saw a hand reaching down for me but I kicked at it and swam in the opposite direction. No rescue. No turning back. And I’m still swimming. And I’m still swimming.