The View From the Top

[from Reservoir, May 8, 2007]

You can see everything from the Signature Lounge. Ninety-six floors up, that’s probably the point, but you can’t help but wonder if they know just how much of this city is out there, if one were to look closely enough.

The guy at Lincoln and Webster, furious because it took 5 minutes for a cab to come by. The guy further down Ashland, sighing in quiet defeat when the N9 bus arrives after 40 minutes.

The girl standing in line outside some awful club at Halsted and Fullerton. The girl staring out the window of some awful mid-rise at Halsted and Chicago.

The slant of the Edens and the flood of headlights that makes you ask “My God, where are they all going at this hour?”

The gaping holes in the South Side neighborhoods where there once stood beautiful homes and stretches of park, all eradicated by years of municipal favoritism and capital mismanagement.

The taverns on Division where clumsy young men are trying their damnedest to win over beautiful young women who’ve heard it all before. The shops on Michigan avenue shining like a beacon to visitors from far-away and exotic places like France and Japan and Tennessee.

The lights of Wrigley Field still aglow from tonight’s game and the hordes of tourists showing off their brand new Cubbie blue T-shirts and baseball caps. You try to imagine what it feels like to travel all this way to see a team so awful that it makes more sense to root for the crumbling ballpark they play in. Then you look to the south at what Sox fans in denial still call Comiskey and wonder what it’s like to have to root for the team if only because the park is almost nothing to cheer about, unless you count junk food and loudspeakers blasting snippets of Metallica songs as causes for celebration.

The couple at the end of the bar, so obviously in a new relationship. Keep your faith in him, girl: if he brought you here, you know he’s at least trying.

The scruffy guy with a righteous mullet and denim shirt sauntering over to the bartender. “Dirty. Dry. Extra Grey,” he orders. Up here, everyone’s a high roller for at least a little while.

The woman sitting alone by the window, sipping a glass of wine and running her hand over the finger where there used to be a ring, seeking comfort and answers in the postcard views and skyline photos. The weather’s nice. Wish you were here.

The waitress brings another Budweiser. “Seven-fifty,” she tells me. Ah, so this is what class tastes like.