I went to Chicago for the first time in October 2012, itchy to leave Atlanta for now and for good, as ever was the case.
That trip was a gamble. I was staying with a friend whom I hadn't spoken to in several years, and there was no telling which way our chemistry would react. This can be a fun experiment over dinner or drinks, but a disastrous one when incubation for an extended period of time is involved.
Upon arrival at her Wicker Park walk-up, I propped my scant luggage against the plush couch and mentally calculated the graceful maneuvering required of three adults, one teenage girl, and a (surprise!) baby to peacefully share a single bathroom.
And we did it: we deftly fell into our old pace and were soon lockstep with one another, to our mutual relief and excitement. Questions found answers, answers called for quips, quips raised more questions, and so the cycle went on through mouths full of dim sum, rum punch, and wry comebacks.
It never ended. We ate and shopped our way through Chicago, our chatter only interrupted by thoughtful pauses naturally following revelations. Deep dish, indeed.
The blow-dried and lip-sticked fates of lifestyle were kind to me on that trip, and when they whispered, I listened: Chicago would be happy to be my home -- would I have it?
A city dick to trump all others. #citydicks
I resolved I would. Then I returned to my un-heated, un-air-conditioned attic bedroom in Atlanta; swiped some accursed stink bugs from my lampshade; and promptly bought a home, thereby anchoring myself in the South for the foreseeable future.
My friend was shocked. So was I. She was so adamant that I would move to Chicago. So was I.
To this day, I don't know what drove me to even consider more than one side of the coin, let alone tossing it in the air.
Almost exactly three years later, I went to Chicago for the second time in September 2015.
I called my friend. We went for brunch, and, as I expected, picked up right where we left off. Everything had changed. Nothing had changed.
After shaking her head for 10 minutes as I described the ins, outs, and uh-oh's of my road trip around the U.S., she finally, unsurprisingly asked me, "So, when are you going to move here?"
I thought of the feeling of elation, of home, of intrigue I felt the first time I came here. Thought of how perfectly intact those feelings still were as I sat there and looked at pictures of her second (surprise!) baby. The waiter cleared away our plates and refilled our water glasses.