This Month is Travel

So, getting away to Chicago did me a lot of good insofar as it helped me realize that a) I am a mess. I might even be a hot mess? Not sure where the line is there. Anyway, it gave me a mental break from the guy who I wasted two prior blog posts on, and the space to realize he was even more nuts than am I. After not contacting me for a while, he deleted his email account and cancelled his phone service– I know because I had told myself that after a week of no contact I could send one final note: “if you’re ever ready to date, look me up” or something to that extent.

And off I went to a 5-day conference in Chicago (dammit, I’m on another plane right now and I managed to lose one of my shoes. I took them off and now I don’t know where one is. It takes talent to lose a shoe in an airplane seat).

I love the big annual (academic) conference, and I also don’t have the disposition for it. It overstimulates me so profoundly that I almost cancelled my Thanksgiving plans because I feel the need to sit alone in my house for a week to recover. And stare at the wall. It’s basically nonstop people if you plan it that way, and I do, because I don’t like wasting my time– I’m there to shmooze and be shmoozed upon.

So I ran into my previous advisor in a bar. Earlier I’d seen him in passing in the conference hall and we paused, briefly in mutual recognition as he gestured vaguely and said:
“I’m running–“
“Then run,” I interrupted, realizing that might have been rude.
Anyway, I’m not popular by any stretch of the imagination, but as we tried to talk in the bar, we were cut off by one person after another who wanted to greet me. And one was my drunk department chair. Really drunk. 8/10 on the drunk-o-meter. Ex-advisor finally turned away out of exasperation.

Drunk department chair wanted to do dinner with a couple of my dept-mates and I, at a mediocre pan-Asian place around the corner. The only one who’d lived in Chicago among us, I had a plan to sneak off to Wow Bao and get “hot asian buns” (their slogan), but I found myself being towed along and hoped that I’d run into “hot ex-advisor” later as a consolation prize.

Dinner was somewhat worth the earlier conversation-interruptus- and it was free (dept chair is a wonderful guy who seems to suffer from the same crippling anxiety as I do, but to not be medicated for it). The parallel with my father’s situation doesn’t seem to cause me any particular emotional discomfort, although I feel like it should somehow. I mean, it should be “triggering”, right? I feel nothing.

In the basement of the hotel, in one of the many identical chandelier-ed and damask-carpeted rooms with beige walls and projector screens, we all drank $10 glasses of wine and beer, and celebrated my department’s acquisition of our field’s major journal. Ex-Advisor was there, but he spent the evening talking with a woman I didn’t recognize. Seated. Engaged. I couldn’t cut in.

I did what I always do when around inaccessible men; I feigned indifference while trying to engineer a conversation, an encounter. Two colleagues who were going to the same subsequent party as me got fed up and left for it without me. I eventually had to concede defeat, too proud to wait any longer while pretending I wasn’t, I handed the full glass of wine I’d ordered (as an excuse to linger) to a senior colleague, and wandered off. I emailed him the next morning instead.

***
I had to be up early the next morning for my flight, and was supposed to meet the guy whose apartment I had stayed in (in whose apartment i had stayed?)  to return his keys. Absent the time the night before (when he’d suggested the meeting location) to check how long it would take to get from Bronzeville to Hyde Park, I was unpleasantly shocked when my phone told me it would be an hour by bus/train- dragging my suitcase and shuffling along in the sharp cold.

An hour to go 20 blocks?

This guy bikes everywhere, and by bike it’s only about 15 minutes. But the Chicago trains and the buses wrap around HP in an inconvenient way, and I risked making myself late to my flight if I took that much time to drop off the keys.

I called and texted the guy about what to do, but he didn’t answer. Somewhat panicked, and a lot frozen on his building’s front steps, I considered my options. If he wasn’t answering, and I couldn’t get to HP without risking missing my flight, I had to leave the keys somewhere sneaky for him. I settled on one of three heavy concrete planters in front of his building. With numb bare hands, I eased it up, and carefully slid the keys underneath. Then, I took a photo of the location and sent it to him with a nervous explanation.

I was most of the way to the airport on the train when I received his angry SMS reply that what I’d done was “fucked up”. I was immediately horrified and set to explaining my position. Sure I had lived in Chicago before, but never traveled by El between Bronzeville and HP. I’d had no idea how long it would take. He told me I should have hailed cab, and I hung my head… but in hindsight there were no cabs in sight and I do think calling one was a bit above and beyond.

He got his keys back just fine, but I think he now kind of hates me.
I guess it’s my fault for not mapping the route the night before and realizing how long it would take to get to him, but he also couldn’t have picked a much more inconvenient rendezvous point.

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