Welcome to Chicago

It’s quarter to seven. I’m heading to the train station, splashing through dark puddles on the pavement. The sky’s that purple-black color that city skies get just before dawn. At this time of the morning, the smell of fried Thai food from the restaurants lining the street is more stink than smell, and my stomach heaves at the idea of consuming anything non-liquid at this time of the morning.

I’m listening to a Live cd, and thinking that you know, Live sounds pretty good until you actually listen to the lyrics, and then you start listening and you realize the lyrics are shit. Luckily, I’m in no state to actually listen to what the hell anybody’s saying this morning.

I arrive at the top of the train platform just in time to see the ass-end of a train heading toward the loop.

Wait around for the next one, dreary day, rain, Chicago, the sound of garbage trucks. A northbound train clatters by. Somebody’s smoking and eating a McDonald’s breakfast sandwich. Heave.

Maybe I’m getting sick with something.

On the train, the only empty seat is full of gnawed chicken bones. I wait until a woman moves herself, her stroller, and her 3-year-old to a vacated seat, and then I take theirs, hoping they aren’t moving because the kid pissed on the seat.

I doze and watch the rain on the windowpanes. Past Wrigley Field (Addison – amazing when the Cubs were in the playoffs, it was like Disneyland), past Boys’ Town (Belmont – there’s an army surplus store there I keep meaning to get to), past De Paul University (Fullerton – maybe I should go to law school?).

We pass underground, and at Washington I prepare to alight from the wrong side of the train – that’s how out of it I am. When the doors open on the other side, I do an about-face and stumble onto the platform, heading toward the blue line tunnel. I follow after the same little old woman almost every morning. She usually wears a lime green coat, but today it’s gray featherdown.

At the blue line platform, familiar faces, but no violin player, no man crooning alongside bad tape recordings of cheesy songs. The street performers appear to have taken the day off.

Step onto the blue line, sharing the train with people and luggage, bound for O’Hare. I get off before O’Hare, trundle up the escalators with a bazillion other commuters, click, click of high heels and good men’s shoes.

Twelve minute walk, past the mini-skyscrapers of this cozy little office complex (look, mom, I have a real job!), under the parking garage, follow the sidewalk, cross at the blinking light, there across the street I can see Cyllia the secretary’s van already parked out front. Another day, another dollar.

Push inside, turn off the Live album, Blaine’s office light is on, Blaine’s in early… Cyllia’s greeting, “Happy new year,” dump my crap in my cubicle behind Cyllia, fish out my chicken and broccoli, stow it in the breakroom. Nobody else is in this early, we’re all a bunch of slackers…

Blaine is on a conference call or something, Cyllia’s listening to some funny ditty somebody forwarded to her.

I take my seat, CD collection at my left elbow, open up the computer, change the password (my old one: “Tragic!”), check my g-mail, nothing, check my work e-mail, nothing but “read by” receipts (if I “work” the work comes in by e-mail, unless Blaine tells me to print something, which has been my default position for the last six months – printer of Blaine’s RFPs), blow me, blogging time, get some coffee, sitemeter, hotmail, random bullshit.

Another day, another dollar.

The printer next to me jams. Cyllia comes over, and one of the lead architects appears to retrieve his jammed document, tells me I should have told him I needed a car – he just sold “a real chick magnet” (there’s a running bet in the office on the nature of my sexuality, as I never talk about a boyfriend. I’ve preferred to remain ambiguous. Who I take to bed or don’t isn’t their business. Their bafflement amuses me).

The accountant who took off so suddenly and was summarily fired is back, and chatting with the lead architect. She’s apparently so good with Oracle that she can flake out, fly out, and abandon her key card and her job for three months and then burst back in without a salary penalty.

Must be great to be her.

Blaine bumbles in for said dictionary, discusses how he and his fiance suffered from stomach flu over New Year’s.

Way to ring it in.

Cyllia comes by, whispers the usual lament against the injustices of the HR manager.

There are no messages on my phone. I could be in bed right now.

I can’t believe I get paid for this shit.

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