Last month I spent some time traveling through the Midwest. It was great. Every morning, I would wake to a pressing itinerary of seeing loved ones and enjoying the day at whatever yummy restaurant or café chosen for our catch up session. Though I passed through many exotic locales such as Grand Rapids, Michigan and Lancaster, Pennsylvania, I spent half my time in Chicago and would crash nightly at the home of my good friend, S. I’ve known S for about ten years now, and she’s one of those fantastic friends who graciously gives up her own bed for visiting guests and doesn’t get mad when they come home at midnight and want to chat even though she has to get up for work in six hours. Also, she lives in high-rise with a killer view of the city.

So one evening I was having dinner with another friend, D, at Hub 51. Great food. Even better mojitos. And creepy monitors in the ladies’ room that watch everyone in the restaurant. Yet after a delicious slice of icebox pie, I forgot about all that. I also forgot how late it was getting. I knew that S hadn’t been getting a lot of sleep the last couple of nights (I might be partly to blame for that); also, she was battling a cold. But I was having so much fun! Not wanting to be a total jerk, though, I texted that I would be home within the half-hour. No response.

I didn’t think much of it. Once I finally arrived at her place, or five blocks away – how I miss Chicago parking! – I called to give her a heads up. Because S lives in a high-rise, you can’t just walk in. It’s one of those fancy schmancy places where you get buzzed in. There’s even a very intimidating front desk dude who’s ready to pounce should you try to slip by with another resident. I rang S seven times. No answer.

Déjà vu.

About four years ago, the very same thing happened. I was again staying with S (that’s why I can’t be mad; she hosts me every time I come into town) and on one particular night, I found out the hard way that she is a crazy deep sleeper. That time, I managed to get into her building (different place) with some unsuspecting (or not caring if I was a serial killer) resident, but still couldn’t get inside her apartment. She had a studio, and though I could hear her phone ringing through the door each time I called – I could even hear her shifting in her sleep! – that girl would not wake up. I fear for her future children should there be a house fire or alien abduction. She was out cold. Given that I had come back to her place after midnight and perhaps deserved this taste of hell, I couldn’t pound on her door without waking the neighbors and causing a commotion. Thankfully, she finally woke up around 2am and found me in the fetal position in the hallway.

Fast-forward to last month. When S didn’t pick up on the fourth call, I had a pretty good idea of what was happening. At this point, it was once again the midnight hour, and I had a decision to make. Should I appeal to the better nature of the front desk dude to let me in, and even if he did take pity on me, then what? Once more pathetically wait in her hallway until she woke up? Plus, I had to use the bathroom again.

It’s an odd feeling to feel homeless in your own hometown. I went through my options… Should I call my family? The last thing I wanted to do was drive my ass out to the suburbs. Moreover, they were just as bad as S if not worse. My sister screens her calls in the middle of the day; no way was she going to pick up at midnight. And my parents still occasionally employ the tried and true tactic of unplugging the phone when they don’t care to be bothered. Given that they’re retired and really the only people calling are their daughters, I’m a tad offended but anyway… Even if I crashed with one of them, I would have to battle Ike traffic the next morning to ensure entry to S’s apartment before she left for work. No thank you.

So it came down to my friends in the city. Truth is, I could have called any of a dozen people and would have received an immediate “Sure, come on over!” Though exhausted by a day of fun and annoyed by this unexpected exile, I smiled. I haven’t been a resident of Chicago for more than six years, but realized that I would always have a home here. Not because of that brownstone I’ll one day have within walking distance of Wrigley (fingers crossed!), but because of the people I love.

It was late, though. All my friends are day job people whom I assumed were already sleeping. Except D. Given that I had left her merely twenty minutes ago, I figured she might still be awake. Plus, D’s another amazing friend who thinks only of others no matter the inconvenience to her. She’s like Jack in Titanic and would happily give up that life-saving piece of wood to some ungrateful rich chick only to freeze in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. That’s just the kind of person she is. She’s also really good about answering her phone: “Sure, come on over!” When I arrived fifteen minutes later, already laid out on the couch were blankets, pillows and pajamas, including a Blackhawks tank top. It’s true; home is where the heart is.

Epilogue: At 2:30am, my phone rang. A frantic and still groggy S was calling: “Where are you? I’m so sorry! I’m so sorry! Where are you? Are you on the street? Are you in your car? I’m so sorry!” I wasn’t mad, but allowed her to apologize a few dozen more times before going back to bed.

Image: digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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2 Responses to “Lockout”

S’ response is currently in progress…

July 7th, 2011

Take all the time you need. In fact, why don’t you sleep on it. 😉

July 7th, 2011