I haven’t noticed that building before

783 words

Okay, so, weekends are harder. Still trying to figure out what kind of schedule is reasonable yet challenging. I don’t know. Today’s entry was also hard. Why are these so hard?

She stood facing the river, her gloved hands stuffed deep into her pockets, her arms pressed tightly against her sides. Her coat would normally be adequate—she hadn’t forgotten what Chicago winters were like—but it seemed as if her heavy down coat was made of paper. She reluctantly untucked her hands to pull her scarf tighter around her neck and stuff the tasseled ends down the front of her coat. Her hat was pulled low, but the loose crochet pattern allowed the sharp, bitter wind to stab her inner ears. Her hat choice was a mistake; she felt her skull was turning to ice.

Her Lyft driver was warning her about the weather, and he wondered aloud why she’d want to visit this town at such an awful time. She thought about correcting him: she wasn’t visiting, she was moving back for good, and the timing was beyond his control. But he was on a roll, and she didn’t have the heart to interrupt. Chicago weather seemed to be a favorite subject of his; he’d found at least 15 different ways to say “cold.” She assumed his next passenger would hear a similar monologue, but maybe without such colorful adjectives as “ball-clanking.”

She should be sequestered in her hotel room, making calls to the moving company. Everything she owned was in that van, stuck somewhere outside Springfield. She was left with a choice: take her carry-on to an empty apartment, or check in to a hotel room. She chose the latter, and was determined to make the moving company pay for it—a battle she was relishing and rehearsing in her head. But she needed to get out.

The river was gray and sheeted with crackled ice. The surrounding landscape offered no respite of color to focus on. The steel buildings shot up from the ground, their spires and towers jutting into the clouds, their windows echoing the sky, its barrenness reflected into infinity. There was little movement on the streets, most people were inside guarding against the frost with Snuggies and glasses of scotch.

She stood as long as she was able, until her ears began to ache. She walked next to the river, watching as the floating ice bobbed and bumped against itself. She came to a corner she used to go to in her teens—it had a bodega where she bought her Mountain Dews and Twizzlers, two things she hadn’t touched in years. She crossed the street, finding the best route to avoid deep drifts or hidden ice. The bodega was still there, though the offerings had changed. Mountain Dew and Twizzlers were perennial, but Coke Zero was a new addition and Surge had disappeared. The woman at the counter was new too, but since the man who used to run the little market was probably in his 70s back when she slapped change on that counter to pay for her sugary snacks, it was unlikely he’d still be around.

She left the bodega empty-handed, earning a brief, suspicious look from the cashier. As she turned to head back to the hotel, she paused. There was a building right next to the bodega, one she was sure she hadn’t seen before. Was she on the wrong corner? She walked backward a few steps. No, it was the same place. There were the tiles that spelled out “Martin’s” embedded deep in the sidewalk, a holdover from a bar that had occupied the bodega’s space in the ‘50s and ‘60s. But the building next to it must be new, because there’s no way she wouldn’t have noticed that building before.

It was a gothic style, with gargoyles guarding the concrete steps leading to the front door. Ornate stone spiralled and twisted up the side of the building. It was a style usually reserved for churches or self-important civic buildings, but this one was neither of those. It was the same size as the buildings around it—shops, boutiques, salons. She looked for any indication of what it was and what purpose it served, but there was none. She was just about to assume that it was the work of an overzealous Anne Rice fan, when she saw the plaque carved into a column: “Founded 1838.”

Of course, it could have been added later, maybe at the same time as the gargoyles, but she didn’t think so. The stone was the same type and patina as the rest of the facade. She was tracing a finger into the carved letters when the door at the top of the stairs opened. A single, slippered foot stepped into the cold, followed by a dark head. “Hello, Raye.”

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