old (2007), Uncategorized

it was the best of times…

I love my neighborhood. Almost everything I could ever want is within a ten-minute walk of my apartment, ranging from indie stores (Laurie’s Planet of Sound, The Dressing Room, City Mouse, The Grind, The Book Cellar) and all kinds of yummy food (Thai, Indian, Mexican, Greek, Italian, sushi) to chain stores (CVS, Walgreens, Jewel) and places to get reliably average cheap vegan food (Subway, Taco Bell, Potbelly). We’ve got a nice library, a huge park, and a public plaza with a fountain (and free concerts all summer long). All other things that matter (Whole Foods, Trader Joes, black bean cakes and mango salsa from Wishbone, the beach, downtown) are a (sometimes) quick bus or “L” ride away, and it’s a safe place to raise kids (not to mention walk home half-drunk from the “L” station at 3am). So why is it that walking through the neighborhood made me think about moving away?

I’ve been thinking lately that maybe Lincoln Square isn’t the neighborhood I belong in but instead represents the type of place I want to be part of. There are some times when I feel completely at home here, a geographic version of stumbling across The One. But then there are other times — most notably, when walking around the Square in the summertime — when I feel completely out of sorts.

I look around and I see happy couples with children in $800 strollers and matching Crocs, or the artsy boys and girls who ride their bikes everywhere, or the same seven people who use The Grind as their home office during the week — and while it’s aesthetically interesting to me, I’m not quite sure where I fit into that. There aren’t a whole lot of single parents in this neighborhood, and so when I go out with the boys, there are times that’s awkward: at The Fiddlehead Cafe last week, both the host and our server asked when my husband would be arriving to join us for dinner, and something similar happened at the library earlier that same day.

The fact of the matter is that I’ve never had that kind of life: yeah, I’ve had the husband and the guy who might as well have been, but neither of them ever had a desire to just amble about in any neighborhood with me, much less for no discernable purpose. And so the way my life is now — ambling about solo or with kids, to the record stores and the bookstores and the cafes and the restaurants — is pretty much how it’s always been. If I’ve wanted to do anything, it might as well be alone. But Lincoln Square is the kind of place that seems custom-made for couples (and, by extension, families) who want to do things together, not some random lone woman with children in tow who’s never even experienced that sense of togetherness, even when she was in relationships.

Then again, I’m not sure anywhere else would be any different. Ultimately, this is an issue I have with the world, not Lincoln Square. It triggers a real sore spot for me: the process of finding a romantic partner who has similar ideas about how to navigate the world. [Of course, the flip side of this is when I do find someone who has those similar ideas, and if things don’t work out, the experience of ambling — alone again — through the Square becomes doubly difficult.]

It isn’t that I’m not okay being alone. I am okay with that. It’s just that sometimes I pine for more, and when I see that “more” all around me, it’s a constant reminder of all the things I don’t have, or I’ve had briefly but lost.