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The Turning Point

For six months in the spring and summer of 1994, before I moved to Chicago permanently, I made my home at the Marriott Residence Inn on Walton.

(I was tutoring miscellaneous Culkins, who were in town filming the movie Richie Rich.) My nesting took three notable forms: I bought a lot of candles, thinking this would personalize my room a bit; I got myself a cool Chicago boyfriend; and I spent as much free time as I had either staring at the lake from my hotel window or, when the weather got warmer, parking myself on Oak Street Beach every sunny afternoon, wishing I could come up with a good reason to make a permanent move to Chicago from New York City. I was over New York about as soon as I arrived there, in 1967, at age six.

One of my first trips to the lake was on a warm night in early June. My boyfriend, a night owl who lived in Ukrainian Village, called in the wee hours to say that he and a bunch of friends were coming over to jump in the lake and would I like to join?

There should have been several clues right in the invitation, wee hours being the first. But he was really cute, with hair down to the middle of his back, and I liked him a lot, so I said sure. I was still hoping against hope that he might be my reason to move.

My next opportunity to turn back came when he proposed dashing across Lake Shore Drive to get to the beach—you know, as opposed to taking the underground walkway. Maybe he knew the walkway was closed at that hour—I don’t know—but back in those days, I was still up for risking life and limb for a cute guy.

The midnight swim was a turning point in our relationship. His friends were passing a joint, which was likely the mildest of the drugs going around that night by a lot. There was one couple on the lifeguard stand enjoying themselves—loudly—and pretty much everyone else began removing their Doc Martens and flannel shirts, hurling their naked, tattooed bodies into the lake.

Let me count the ways in which I was not this cool: I hadn’t smoked pot since the early eighties and had no interest in starting up again; I had no ink; and as much as I adored having a vast lake right in the middle of the city, I could think of nowhere I’d rather be in the middle of the night than my bed.

I sat on the beach with my hoodie pulled over my head, beginning to admit to myself that this relationship might not work out. Two years later I moved to Chicago anyway, and here’s the best reason I came up with: I just love this place. It’s home.

 

Elizabeth Crane is the author of three short-story collections, including When the Messenger Is Hot.

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