view from 840 North Lake Shore, Chicago
view from 840 North Lake Shore, Chicago

May 31. My first month in Chicago was drawing to a close, and I had celebrated it at the Green Mill. And like any self-respecting French woman, I was now wrapping up my evening with a glass of wine in my hand, in one of the deck chairs on my apartment balcony, a shawl around my shoulders. A real grandmother.

Any self-respecting French woman…in a manner of speaking. I picked up the wine habit here. I couldn’t help but notice my hosts’ disappointment whenever I would tell them that I didn’t drink. “Not even a glass of wine? But aren’t you French?” And so I became a functioning alcoholic. Drinking alone on the balcony.

No more chamomile tea for me. I had become much more adept with a corkscrew than a teakettle.

As I reflected on my strange day and my odd evening, staring at the city lights, the big question was what I would do to occupy my days from now on.

Yolanda and Steely Eyes had hit it off right away. They had headed straight for a table together, and I had followed them like an awkward teen. The only thing I could remember Yolanda saying to me all night was when she called out to me as the taxi dropped her off, “See you Monday at 10 in front of the French Market!”

Those words echoed in my head, along with a few other snatches of conversation…no use wondering about my future in Chicago. My hand was dealt.

One thing I could be certain of, alone with my glass of wine at two in the morning, was that nobody crosses our paths at random. Everyone we encounter, even if just for a moment, has a role to play, something to share, whether they remain in our lives, vanish, or return.

And I had had to become an expat to realize it.

Another thing I had learned over the last few years was to let people drift away from our lives so they can enter other lives.

And Joshua had thrown the door open. No, it’s no metaphor. He actually had just burst in the door. That’s what I loved about him: the element of surprise.

To be continued …

Translated from french bu Kenneth Barger 🙂