Leave at Rush Hour / by Thea Lux

"Late breakfast at The Grind before heading out to Los Angeles. Ever see two grown people cry in public while eating? We're here."

The morning of our move, we had a late breakfast at my husband's favorite local coffee shop. He'd managed to become a regular and after catching up with the staff saying our current catch phrases, "Yeah, we bought a car," and "It'll take about four days," and "A dog and a cat," we sat together at the small table in a dazed silence.

While we weren't exactly dragging our feet about leaving, every action of that morning was deliberate and memories were filed away for future recollections. It was sunny. Flowers were actively blooming and the spring scents wafted through the streets. This was the last time we'd do this, the last time for that...

We were groggy from going-away festivities and after months of constant prepping and packing, right then we sat in that moment of stillness where life's chaos catches up to you. The food didn't taste like anything and the lumps in our throats made it hard to swallow. We found ourselves both crying over our breakfast sandwiches and spinach pies. After a bit, we gave a second round of hugs to the employees and went back home to slowly pack more.

With the amount of times I said, "We're in the final stretch," I felt obligated to open my own yoga studio. We were in the Tetris phase of loading the car and determining what made the final cut. Our garbage looked like it was ready to be featured on "This is Your Life." *

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We took our last lap around the empty apartment and we said goodbye. Goodbye empty room, goodbye unsightly water heater predominantly displayed in the kitchen. The dog was in her crate, we placed the keys on the counter, and closed the door behind us. (Also, I was carrying a cat. In a bag. Cat-in-a-Bag. Just Google it; it's this whole thing.)

As we exited, our upstairs neighbor approached the apartment with her son, Henry. We've listened to Henry grow up above us for five years now. From crawling to toddling, to any sound that would make you question if he had concrete for appendages, we've heard him grow. And now, on our last day here, we said goodbye to the only neighbors we ever really said hi to in the hallway.

"Los Angeles." "Movers. But we packed the car." "About four days." "Dog's in the car already."

"Go inside, Henry," said Henry's mother. But he had already bolted up the stairs, his balance thrown off by the Spider-Man backpack nearly the size of him before she'd even finished saying her sentence. Henry's mother left and I gave the cat (in a bag) a comforting squeeze.

I headed towards the car where my entire life's contents were waiting.

"Where's my mom?"

I turned around to see Henry standing outside the apartment.

"She left," I said. (I'm still holding a cat.) "She said to go inside. Do you have keys to your apartment?"

"I'll find her," Henry said and walked down the block to look for his mother who was not down said block.

"Do you have keys to your house?" I asked again as I followed behind him.

"No," he said.

"Do you know your phone number so we can call your mom?"

"No," he said.

First of all, bullshit. Are you meaning to tell me that in the era of cellphones I have to accept that children don't memorize phone numbers? Second of all, the keys to our apartment were sitting on our counter inside. This child had no keys. This child's mother was not returning. I was still holding a cat.

Thank goodness you can easily break into our apartment by jimmying the lock and I no longer live there for this fact to affect me.

We get the front door open.

"Henry, did you see if your door was locked?"

We go upstairs and find it isn't locked.

"Mom...?" He called to the seemingly empty apartment.

"Dad...?" a Dad-sounding voice called from the living room after a pause.

"Where's Mom?"

"She went to work, bud," said Henry's father.

I was a little annoyed that the dad didn't acknowledge something was wrong, but maybe it's not out of the ordinary for an unfamiliar woman holding a cat in a bag to escort his child into his home. And no, no explanation will sound normal when you relay what had happened. The cat thing throws it all off.

And so we left. We made it out of Chicago. At rush hour. 16.5 years after I'd arrived. We drew out our goodbyes by inching out of the city and even savored the stand still traffic on Irving Park.

And in four days we made it to Los Angeles.

 

 

* Flash forward to four days later, someone contacted me on Twitter about some film canisters of mine he bought off eBay. That struck me as odd, because I didn't sell anything on eBay. I did throw my college films away after accepting I would never take the steps to view them again. A local trash digger thought it was important for my college Film Tech II projects to be resurrected from the garbage and sold for meager profit. Great work, humanity.