5:13 A.M. The pale night sky greys slowly fade into magnificent shades of pink and yellow and orange. To my left, skyscrapers that are as high as the heavens. To my right, the vast splashing of Lake Michigan morning waters. A young couple jogs right on by my blanket, their matching neon Nike gym shoes stomp-stomp-stomping in perfect unison. I take a deep breath and exhale to a 1, 2, 3 count as the Chicago skyline awakens with the rising of the sun. The emptiness of Lake Shore Drive will gradually adopt the hustle bustle pace of businessmen and parents and school children and tourists and doctors and vendors and shoppers.
6:37 A.M. My lakeshore hideaway becomes fully illuminated by the sun. Three more couples, two old men, and a buff middle age woman join the morning rise-and-grind run club. I count their steps as the pass. Six. Seven. Eight. Nine.
Ten. I turn and lock eyes with an entire group of obviously inebriated partiers as they giggle on up behind me and the safety of my blanket. I turn back around, throw my headphones on, and try to pretend I don’t hear the lucky bride-to-be vomiting over her torn sash.
7:29 A.M. I get up to stretch my legs out, feeling the dampness of the earth squishing between my toes. I can’t help but wonder what life would be like if we all enjoyed the simplicity of things. I stop and think about the previous night. Reunited at last during a brief holiday break, my high school pals and I sat around a bonfire checking Twitter and Instagram and our mailboxes and texts and Snapchats. What sorority was Anna in again? Did Blake really get a girlfriend? Reality seems blurred. I remember that John from Valparaiso University went skiing in Colorado. But I didn’t really know him. Why do I know more about my brother’s casual acquaintance than my hometown best friends?
8:01 A.M. I walk back to my car and sit back with the window down. The night finishes bleeding into morning. I whip out my phone and text my brother, “Tell me that you’re okay. Is everything okay?” He responds two seconds later: “Al, wtf?? Yes?” I sigh. I couldn’t even remember if it was him or Nate or Trent that said they were having a hard time adapting. I get back out of the car as I remind myself that the fog is part of the journey. In spite of whatever ache we’re aching, we’ll be okay. We cannot change if we don’t have a problem with the way things are. I put on my fuzzy socks and converse, and head back out.
10:12 A.M. I finally pull into my driveway, counting the cracks as I slowly creep further up. I remember all the things we wanted before graduating. Weekly FaceTime calls. Group chat updates. Even with hard work and elbow grease and prayer, we never would have made it. Are we burning out? These were my best friends; why do we have to go our separate ways? It wasn’t like we could have loved each other better. It wasn’t like we could have tried harder. It wasn’t like we were doomed…right? We knew each other’s secrets and hopes and dreams. Niara helped me get over my fear of tampons. Anna let me live on her couch after a family fight. Shayna and I had long mental health talks. But all of that is gone and past.
11:11 A.M. I take a deep breath and make a wish. Let them know that it doesn’t matter. I think. I want them to move on. I want them to be happy. I feel a load lift off my shoulders, as if God was stacking textbooks on them and they all just tumbled over. Maybe adulthood is letting go. My phone chimes.
New text. “Guy’s Night” get together– tonight, at North Shore Beach, 9 P.M. sharp. I smile and cry at the same time. Maybe, I think again, adulthood is separate, individual growth that is shared together.