For me it’s sidewalks pulled open by tough green weeds. It’s gas stations and hoodies and carnivals at night. It’s all those kids who never cared what my parents did or what college I planned to go to, only if I could come over and stay up till 3am laughing and memorizing lyrics to rap songs we didn’t fully understand.
The North Shore? We’d never heard of it. Only South Chi Heights for us. Saint Laurent? Pass. We wore clean Nikes and tight jeans. Still do. Friday night wasn’t Friday night unless we were in a set of bleachers somewhere, whether it was freezing to death on the field in October or munching Sour Punch Straws by the court pretending to watch the game. Whatever we were doing, we were there. We knew everyone, and everyone knew us, and whether we realized it then or not, it was a good thing.
Kant, Hegel, and Lacan? We didn’t know who they were. They weren’t “the greats” to us. We knew Jordan and Pippen and Rodman. We rode on the backs of our friends’ bikes and later in the backs of their cars, doing donuts in the empty high school parking lot late at night. We sat around bonfires until the last coals burned out. We made out, we snuck out, we broke up, we made up. We watched our friends make shots, make grades, or just barely make it. We cried with them, sang with them, and walked with them through halls that were ours. We drove with them down streets that were ours. Streets that were in desperate need of buildings that weren’t vacant or liquor stores—maybe, but they were ours, and we were each other’s. We might be far from those days or from those people, but they’re still a part of us, and we can’t forget where we came from.