A few days ago, I picked a friend up from the airport. He was in town for a wedding and we knew that we only had about four hours to spend with which to have a rapid-fire catching up session. I don’t even think we were fully out of the airport before he asked The question, “so how do you like Cleveland?”
This particular friend had spent the better part of his formative years here, both before college and during. He was the first person to ask that of me who would fully understand my answer, especially the parts that juxtapose the harsh differences observed and experienced between Chicago and Cleveland. We were still several miles from our destination but as we drove I found myself sputtering out all the thoughts and feelings about this change that I’d only seen as patchwork until then. To explain it to most is to really only give a short glimpse into moments, but not be able to fully show a total picture. Except to Mike, Mike understood. He laughed several times at observances only those in the exact same circumstances would get. He paused at one point and mentioned how weird it sounded when I threw out names of neighborhoods he also spent time in, and streets he took to get to certain places where he didn’t need to explain the relation to sides of town.
We sat down to a late dinner and he told me of his own happenings and horizons. We talked more about what it is to still be single at our ages, the feeling that things just aren’t clicked into place, the expectations of friends and family and if it was possible to just be happy where we are (the answer is no, by the way). I didn’t get home from dropping him at his hotel until near 3am so I didn’t have time to really ponder before getting up for work in the morning thus I collapsed and put it off for a while.
Then Saturday night came and I couched it again. I stopped at Target before going home, to pick up a coffee table (finally. The banker’s box garnered a, “you gotta do something about that” from Mike. Fair play) and once it was put together and dinner was made, I threw on some Doctor Who and fell asleep still couched, around 11:30. That has become a pattern lately, pj’s, Doctor Who, asleep, awake, off the couch at 5 and to my real bed. I’m not proud.
Then Sunday came. Sundays which I protect with almost violent assertion. I will not work on Sundays nor will I think or talk about work on Sundays. They are sacred, and I’m not just talking about church. Most Sundays are spent relaxing from the previous workweek, much deserved and enjoyed. Then the occasional one comes where I want to be social and get out of the house to meet up with friends and imbibe while the sun is still up. I’ve used these days to go to the art museum, go to brunch, drive around town, do some light grocery shopping, stop off for coffee and watch the traffic go by… alone. Always, alone.
One byproduct which no one told me about is that when a person moves from a big town to a small one, a town in which people gladly spend their entire lives, is that those friendships are cemented. They’ve gone to school together since at least junior high. Most are married by 20 years old. Their dance cards are full. While they’re friendly when I see them out, plans and inclusions are never made. Yesterday was the sort of Sunday where I was somewhat madly scrambling to find someone to hang out with but it never happened. Everyone was already busy or just never got back to me. Ultimately I wound up visiting a friend who bartends at his VFW. It was nice to see a familiar face but about two hours later I found that I wasn’t feeling well, so back to the couch I went.
When people ask how I’m finding Cleveland, the uncomfortable thing that I really want to tell them, is how difficult it is to make friends (and I have never in my life had trouble making friends). I want to tell them how lonesome it can be when all I want is a familiar face not on the other side of the bar. That sometimes I just want to sit and laugh with somebody, or go to a place new to me with them, or make dinner for more than one person. I want to be able to throw out a 10-recipient text and know that at least one will get back to me so plans can be made. Sometimes I need help to bring in a new piece of boxed furniture but wind up doing it myself because there is no one. Usually though, I just wind up talking about how cheap it is. Or how midwest nice everyone has been. Or that it’s so close to Chicago and that helps. If I’d had moved further away than a five hour drive or $133 plane ticket, I don’t want to know how I’d be doing right now. But yesterday, and maybe today, I’m not doing great. And that is the honest truth.