‘Going on a whirlwind, round the world tour?” the mover asked me as he packed up my china.
I explained that I lived in Israel. And since the next tenants for my condo in Chicago wanted it unfurnished I had to pack up and store everything.
Because he was my mover he did not ask the kind of probing, Talmudic question that this situation begs, namely: If I am living in Israel for nearly two years already, why don’t I just up and ship everything to Israel or sell it off?
But he did ask about my china.
“Oh, that damn china!” I said. It was from my marriage, literally a decade ago, and I never liked it in the first place. But since it’s valuable, I have been lugging it from apartment to apartment ever since.
“My ex picked it out,” I told him.
The mover, a real Chicago kinda guy, paused from his wrapping to comment that it was “unusual for the dude to be the one to pick out the china.”
“That’s because if it were up to me, we’d have purple china with red polka dots,” I explained, which is another way of saying, my taste is suspect.
My condo is a testament to that. How else to explain the bathroom painted pink? Or the cornflower blue wooden stand I had specially made to hold my records. (Yes, records. You know, Jonathan Richman, the Roches, Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell…)
Which is another way of saying that it is a testament to just how beautiful my place is, with its perfect view of the Chicago skyline, that my sense of color does not detract from its luster.
Which is another way of saying, I was feeling a bit nostalgic.
Place can do that to a person.
All the memories, good and bad, came rushing back.
Of my excitement when I first moved in, and, in particular, of all the men who passed through my life during the five years I called this place home.
I was pining for one in particular when I moved in and for another when I moved out. And in the meantime more than one fellow came to call.
It’s not just my bookshelf that is a testament to this. The “What Makes Sammy Run” from one ex, the Theodore Roethke book of poems from another.
And Chicago itself is a visceral reminder of over a decade of romances, come and gone.
You know how they have all of those niche tours around the country, like the “Sex and the City” tour in New York where they take you to Magnolia Bakery for cupcakes? And the “Untouchables” one in Chicago where they drive around in a school bus painted black and retrace Al Capone’s steps?
Well, I always thought I could lead a tour through Chicago of “Abigail’s love life, street by street.”
“And here is where I dated that frat boy in the ’90s who lived on Lincoln Avenue,” I would say.
The one who invited me to a final “Seinfeld” party at his apartment, like I ever watched “Seinfeld” in my entire life. I had to sit on the couch with a bunch of guys in Cubs baseball caps and their blonde, skinny girlfriends.
Needless to say, that relationship did not last long.
Or how about the blues musician I dated right out of college? The one I was crazy for who lived above Elsie’s beauty shop on Montrose Avenue. To get to his place you had to climb up these nasty, carpeted stairs. And in the winter the plastic covering the windows swelled with cold air like a balloon and made this terrible howling noise.
And then there was the writer who lived off of Chicago Avenue. When we went for a walk he always insisted on being closer to the street, as a testament to the lost art of chivalry.
He hung out at the coffee shop on the corner and smoked pack after pack of cigarettes while he wrote his novel.
That relationship also did not last long.
When he ended it because, as he said, “he was the man of the cloth, married to his book,” I called my mother sobbing from the Dominick’s grocery store on Halsted.
And I hate to admit it, but Jerusalem is quickly following suit with places starting to take on memories of their own.
This, as they say, ain’t good. Because I’m tired of all the memories, dusty and faded, of relationships that did not work out. I am ready to finally call one place my home.
And to unpack together with someone who is not just going to be one brief stop on the tour of my life, but a permanent co-star.
Someone who, it goes without saying, is looking for a bit of color in his home and his life.
Abigail Pickus is a writer living in Jerusalem.