The city had been on my mind for awhile. True, it was hard to not think about it, given that, each day, I drove its streets and walked its paths. But it wasn't so much my daily life that I focused on; rather, it was the abstraction of being in the city in the first place. It was the feel. The pulse. The heartbeat beneath my footsteps.
I let its rhythm carry me two blocks to the north, to Virginia Avenue. It was a Wednesday night, to be exact. Two Wednesdays ago, to be exacter. We'd gotten a couple more inches of glittering, powdery snow that day. You know, the kind of nuisance snow that can't be molded, can't be shaped, and doesn't cling to the branches outside our windows. It's the same kind of snow that your landlord shovels off the underlying layer of ice.
Sweet, too, was the warmth of Rook, a cozy, counter-service restaurant that brings, as its website says, "the flavors of Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines, China, India, Thailand, and Laos into one
building - and onto one menu." I had heard the ravings. I had read about it in Indy Monthly. I had seen the Instagrammed plates. Furthermore, it was but a three-and-a-half-minute walk from my apartment.
But I still hadn't been there.
Not until that Wednesday, that is. Not until that pulse--the pulse that beats and beats buy local eat local shop local be local live local--guided me over the icy sidewalks and through the door.
Oh, my senses.
I was knocked with the smell of sriracha and the white noise of chattering patrons, but it took only a moment to spot my friend, who was seated, waiting for me.
"I'm so sorry I'm a couple minutes late," I gushed. I removed my gloves and struggled to untangle my scarf from my curls.
She looked up from her phone. "Don't worry about it! I've only been here a couple of minutes anyway."
I laughed. "Okay, good. Again, I'm so sorry. I got held up at the office just before I tried to leave."
"No, really! Don't worry." She waved away my excuses and gestured toward the counter. "Ready to order?”
Five minutes and an avocado appetizer later, we were talking about our work, about our weekends, and about Chicago. She asked me how my latest visit to Evansville was. I asked her how her projects at the Children's Museum were going. There was hardly time for a lull in the conversation, as we asked each other, "Have you ever been to Ball and Biscuit?" "Have you ever gone duckpin bowling?" "Ever seen a show at The Vogue?" We were learning. Learning about each other and about the city, and experiencing restaurants and venues through each other's words.
"Oh!" my friend exclaimed suddenly, her posture straightening. "I have something for you." She retrieved from her purse a 30-page, black and white publication. "I brought you a copy of my zine."
I could hear it in her voice, the pride. The happiness of finishing a creative endeavor. The happiness of completing a challenge.
"I made one page every day of November," she explained. "You've heard of NaNoWriMo, right? Well, I was really inspired by that but, instead of writing a novel, I made a zine! I'd never made one before, so this was kind of an experiment. I just wanted to do something with my hands, something creative, and spend less time in front of a screen, you know?"
"This is really cool," I said, thumbing through the pages. There were sketches. Collages. A drawing of a cigarette, a lament about the oppressiveness of bras. "I'm looking forward to going through this. Thank you!" Like a flip book, I turned the pages. November Spawned a Monster, it was called.
I smiled. She blushed. And then our food arrived.
Karaage and red curry coconut noodles and too much food, almost, but just the right amount of spice for my stuffy nose and itchy throat. I was tired and it was cold and we were talking. Talking about food and the city and the zine and Chicago and the interior of Rook--about the white walls, the yellow chairs, the black birds, the telephone poles.
I was distracted from my own conversation, however, when two more patrons--a dapper, mustachioed man and a striking, clad-in-a-blue-dress redhead--walked through Rook's door. "Oh my God," I whispered to myself as they passed our table.
My friend was unable to ignore my sudden infatuation, and so I explained to her that the man was a filmmaker, a taker of photos, and a wicked dancer. I told her that the woman was possibly the city's most famous redhead, and that she was an interior designer. And I also told her that they had no idea who I was.
"This city is a small town, though. I mean, they're friends with people that I know as well," I said honestly. "Plus, I follow them on Instagram and stuff."
"Sooo ... are they sort of like local celebrities?"
I shrugged. Maybe. They had recognizable names, admirable styles, and notable talents, sure. They were the entrepreneurs, the young professionals. The ones who hung out in downtown penthouses and with each other. They were the faces of that pulse. That heartbeat.
"Are you going to introduce yourself?" she asked.
"Would that be creepy?"
We laughed. We shrugged. "Does it matter?"
As it were, they were nice. They were polite. And they were apparently not bothered by the fact that I had momentarily interrupted their camaraderie.
Nearly three weeks later, I doubt they remember me. But that still doesn't change the fact that Indianapolis is the biggest small town I've ever lived in. We all know each other ... somehow. In some way. Through someone. And if the city has a pulse, and the streets are its veins, then we are its cells, pushing and flooding and circulating. We're bound to collide somewhere. At work. At lunch. At the grocery store. Sometimes, we can find each other at the top of parking garages, seeking new perspectives. And, sometimes, we'll see an image of a place we've never been, an image on Instagram or Twitter, and think to ourselves, I want to make that part of my world, too. I don't want to just be in the city. I want to live it.