Falling out of love with the shape of you.
In the winter, Chicago is the meanest bitch you’ll ever know and to protect yourself from her claws that resemble the talons of the hawks that pick the heads off the pigeons on the tall buildings of the cityscape you must dress warm and you must drink often.
I have a great big green coat I picked up from an Army Surplus store a good while back that has a thick fur hood that looks like a dead wolf and there are days I never take it off. As for the drinking, I consume mules. I’m always consuming mules. But, I do more consuming in the Chicago winter than I do outside of it.
While I won’t beat the shit out of the dead horse that is the great big green coat for every individual in their right mind knows to stay warm you need a coat, I will say that while drinking heavily is bad for your liver and perhaps doesn’t do much to help demons like depression, it’s quite good for bringing people together.
If the heinous bitch that is a Chicago Winter is good for anything, it’s good for bringing people together. You pack enough cold souls in a bar and feed them enough booze, eventually, the place has a way of warming up.
Decades ago, on one of these Chicago Winter nights, I was out drinking, wearing an old denim jacket. At the time, I was young and dumb, for nobody in their right mind takes on a Chicago Winter in a denim jacket. But, being young is a good excuse for being dumb.
It was my first year in Chicago. I was recruited there from Miami to sell advertising at an agency that’s very dead now but at the time was very much alive.
I didn’t particularly like advertising. I never saw it as an art. But, it was a way to make a killing in my early twenties. Not to mention, it was the only career I could find where it was socially acceptable to drink on the job. And, I’d be remiss to not mention that back then, women loved fucking admen. They were rockstars with deep pockets. And, honest to God, who doesn’t like fucking rock stars with deep pockets?
So, I got into advertising because I could make money, drink on the job and get laid.
Isn’t that why young men do anything? To get laid?
I’ve thought long and hard about this and have come to find that a man is good for absolutely nothing until his late thirties when his urge to screw everything that’s not nailed down diminishes some. He stops spending his days consumed with the thought of fucking and he can suddenly focus on doing something productive.
Not that fucking is unproductive.
Anyhow, I’m out drinking in my denim coat, trying my damnedest not to look cold and I look across the room to find my eyes dancing with a pair of eyes much prettier than my own.
I think falling in love is much different for men and women. So, I can’t speak for women. But, I can speak for men and more particularly myself. For me, on that night, falling in love with her felt like seeing a pair of eyes I wanted to look at for the rest of my life.
They were a shade of green I hadn’t seen before. Months later, when the two of us were in the thick of it, I remember us laying in bed and the sun was sending pretty hues through the window, casting rays on her eyes, turning them that shade of green I couldn’t stop looking at and I remember thinking to myself “goddamn” and then it hit me.
Her eyes were a “Goddamn Green”.
But, I’m getting ahead of myself.
So, as our eyes were dancing, I no longer felt cold in my denim jacket I just felt a bit sick in the best kind of ways. Butterflies were beating their wings in my stomach and I wanted desperately to kill every last one of them. I told myself another mule would do the trick. I ordered a mule and a shot of vodka and I took the shot of vodka and sucked at the mule and to my surprise, the fuckers were still beating their wings.
At this time in my life, I wasn’t much good at approaching women. I had a face that was easy to look at and if I showed up to a place, eventually the face in the crowd I liked looking at would show up in front of me or beside me or in a conversation with somebody near me really wanting to have a conversation with me and then the two of us would eventually say hello.
This is just how it was.
But, this girl with the pretty green eyes was a bit different. You could tell she was the centerpiece of every room she ever stepped foot in. Everyone looked at her like she was a living breathing chandelier and she never had to approach anyone. Her presence would separate men from boys, the men would find the gumption to say hello and the boys would cling to the walls.
This is just how it was.
I knew on this particular evening I couldn’t be a wallflower. I looked at her and the two women that appeared to be with her and made certain they didn’t look like they were going anywhere and I stepped out into the bitch that is a Chicago Winter night and walked down to a corner store across the street.
In the corner store, I found a bouquet of flowers. They weren’t the prettiest flowers I had ever seen, but they were pretty enough. I grabbed two bouquets. Paid. Stepped back into the bitch that is a Chicago winter night, I walked across the street and went back into the bar.
When you open a door to a haunt or pub or bar or store in Chicago, the whole place turns to winter. So when I stepped back in, everyone was looking at me and when they noticed two fucking bouquets of flowers in my hands they didn’t stop looking.
I didn’t give a fuck, though, because I was in love. And, I walked up to this pretty green-eyed girl, looked at her, then I looked at her friends on either side of her and gave them each a bouquet.
I then said that I was very sorry but I wanted to take their friend out for a late dinner and couldn’t do it any other evening because she was just too pretty and I’d hate to get hit by a bus before our next run-in.
They smiled and they looked at her and she looked at them and then she looked at me and about twenty minutes later the two of us were dining at a damn good Italian restaurant in Wicker called Lucky’s. It’s still there today.
She ordered the Chicken Parmigiana and I ordered the Shrimp Scampi (though, I wouldn’t recommend ordering the Shrimp Scampi) and the two of us ate and talked and laughed and I prayed behind my mules that she was falling as hard for me as I was for her.
When dinner came to a close, I walked her back to another dive bar her friends said they’d be at. I kissed her on the cheek and I asked her if we could do it all again sometime.
She said yes and she kept saying yes, again and again and again, until two years later when we were dining at Lucky’s for the dozenth time and I got down on one knee and she said yes one last time.
Now, at this part of the story, I must warn you, it’s the happiest it gets. After all, I wouldn’t be writing if it was a happily ever after sort of thing.
For a while, it was a dream. It’s still a dream when I look back before the call she received the following Spring. We moved into a flat in Wicker, a stone’s throw away from Lucky’s. She adored Italian. She decorated the whole goddamn place in plants. She had the greenest of thumbs. We talked about kids but we decided we’d hold off until I was made executive at my agency and she could finish her schooling. She was studying to become a psychologist.
We were living a dream until she got a call about her headaches. We were drinking coffee right beside our bay window where she kept dozens and dozens of succulents in these tiny hand-made pieces of pottery she so very much adored.
Ironically, on this particular day, her head wasn't bothering her one bit. We were sipping and going from silence to laughing and back again. I think that’s what love is, drinking coffee and laughing and falling hard in the silence that comes after laughing. And, in one of these silences, the phone rang and she answered and the voice on the other end of the line made her face change and I remember her eyes were just as pretty as they’ve ever been as our dream was cut short.
She passed three months later.
When the love of your life makes her French Exit, what hurts the most is the silence. It’s a bit absurd how horrible silence is when she’s not in the same room to be a part of it.
And, once you get passed the silence, there is a long while where seeing and experiencing all the pretty little things that made her wildly happy is the closest you come to hell on Earth.
And, then eventually, for some people it’s months and for others it is years… the loneliness becomes too much and you find yourself at one of those bars the two of you would frequent, now alone, looking for a body to keep you warm and to numb the ache. And, if you’re lucky, you find one.
That night, it’s a sanctuary. But, when you wake up the next morning and she’s lying their next to you. Her hair won’t be the right color and her skin won’t be the right shade and her eyes won’t be that Goddamn Green and she’ll look different sleeping their, twisted in the sheets.
I think that’s half of falling out of love with (or at the very least moving passed) someone you’ve lost, learning to fall out of love with the shape they embodied as they existed in the world.
It’s been a good while and I’m still falling out of love with the shape of you.
By Cole Schafer.