When I first moved to Illinois, I pictured meeting the hot guy who didn’t know how hot he was, as described in Anne Friedman’s essay. I forgot that this supposed guy would be a long drive from the north, where the quiet suburbs are spread out generously, where restaurants close at eight in the evening. There are no late night deliveries in the burbs, shocking my midnight snacking burger-and-fries-while-marathoning-Gilmore-Girls-on-a-weeknight New York self.
Life in the suburban city felt like meeting the reluctant, silent boy who requires a lot of prodding to produce one substantial sentence. Grocery runs during the first few weeks were mini hoarding sessions, since I wasn’t sure when I’d be able to hitch a ride again, and didn’t want to inconvenience any of my friends. My Manila-honed driving skills weren’t usable yet, due to fears of being ticketed by stringent American police officers, and snow driving. Wasn’t America the land where people obeyed the rules of the road? My father, a motorist who has gotten away with the most ridiculous driving incidents, warned me that Americans give the finger to rude motorists who stop Manila close to their bumper.
The days were filled by solitude in an airy house, a welcome change from the frenetic bustle of a crowded city of cities. Winter outside the windows would cover driveways in a blanket of white, absorbing all colors and sound, undisturbed except for a few footprints and pawprints. The one time someone knocked at the door to give religious pamphlets freaked me out more than it should’ve, but it’s better to be wary than ignorant.
After practicing enough to drive confidently alongside expressway motorists, the quiet boy seemed friendlier. We’ve gone to a lot of groceries, visited Arlington Heights, Lake Michigan, neighborhoods downtown, seen Christmas lights and snowmen, enjoyed super cheap bratwursts at Costco, along with checking out Restaurant Week offerings, speakeasies and fried chicken. It’s a short drive to work, which no longer depends on the subway arriving on time. The murmur of commuters is replaced by the radio or quiet, and expanses of beautiful sky at dawn. Each of us are on our own, we aren’t in the same car.
Space and time seem to have expanded, and the population of the earth (or the twentysomethings anyway) dwindled. It’s hard to meet new people, or it could be my lack of initiative to get out more, partly because I’m happy getting to know the small team that I’m a part of at work, and also because I just enjoy having alone time. I haven’t found a church yet, because they seem so far away and I don’t always have a means of getting there.
For the two and a half months of being here, do I like the burbs? Yes. I’ve liked all the places I’ve lived in, I appreciate their differences. It took some effort, but I like the quiet boy. It took longer for us to warm up to each other, but there’s so much more space, and less pressure to function like a hyper young adult. I like the home-cooked meals, Vitamix, and gradually opening my long-avoided Pandora’s box of baking skills (it’s much easier avoid pastries when I think it’s difficult to make them). Naps, reading the papers with coffee, marathoning Friends (I’m almost finished with the last season!), exercising vigorously without worrying about the neighbors below because there are none, and walks around neighborhood with mailboxes.
I could go out of my way to see Chicago Chicago, except that I’m in that perfectly warm and molded-to-my-body spot in the comforters and pillows. At 50ºF, it’s no longer cold outside, but I still wish it were winter. Spring is drawing us all out from lazy social hibernation, and my staying-in excuses are nearly all melted away.