Love Labor's Lost

volumes of mis-adventures

The Whistle That Cripples

on September 24, 2013

Walking home, walking to school, walking around, it’s just never happened while I was in my car. There have been a couple moments in my life where I have been made uncomfortable, while not interacting with anyone. A strange tumultuous feeling in the pit of my stomach, like a squirrel rattling around longing to escape, overcomes any calm serene moment I may have been having just nanoseconds before. What could possibly evoke such an agonizing pain? Ok, so maybe it’s not agonizing, but I’m sure you remember the feeling. Let me set a different picture.

Walking down Keeler Avenue in Skokie, IL; it’s the summer of 1997 and I’m making my way home from the pool. My friends and I had already parted ways, and I was left to trek the last three quarters of a mile home by myself. At nine I can only imagine what my mind had been mulling over, when a large red pick-up truck, with a trailer filled with landscaping machines, started honking. I looked up and the hoots and the hollers began. I don’t remember what they looked like, I don’t remember if they said anything, but the whistle resounds in my inner ear like it was yesterday. Scared and uncomfortable.

Lake Cook Rd., Highland Park, summer 2011. My bike tire had popped while I was jetting over the highway bridge, a piece of glass, a pebble, whatever it was, cut through my tire like a steak knife through melted butter leaving me to walk the remaining 8 miles home. It was the middle of the day, my parents were at work. My friends were at work. I had to be at work in 3 hours. As I was walking past the Botanic Gardens, trying to think of who I could call, a large green truck, with machines piled in the back and men sticking up like weeds in between, began to honk, whoop, and holler. Strangely, although I was 23 I still can’t remember exactly what they looked like, or what they said, but the distinct whistle and churning of my stomach remains, like light spots after a camera flash.

Today, a beautiful fall day, the sun rose like an orb of pink fire over Lake Michigan as I sped down LSD. It was 6:40, and the radio was playing Kelly Clarkson’s People Like Us, a song that I adore and yet haven’t completely made sense of all the lyrics. Then a story about Jane Austen’s ring being bought by the singer for a quarter of a million dollars at an auction just to be bought back by the British Museum, but I digress. I merge on to the Stevenson, and I’m cruising, waiting for the impending and inevitable halt of traffic. As I come to a snailed-pace, I hear a honk. I ignore it as many times on the Stevenson people honk not to be heard, but to enliven the boredom of traffic, the same notorious reason for “accidents”; it’s really just to break up the monotony of the stop-go rhythm. I hear the honk again, and decide it might actually be something worth drawing my attention. As I turn my neck, rotating my attention to the left, I am assaulted by a gaping toothless mouth. The wrinkles around his eyes soften his attack, with his straw hat tilt upward. The top half of his body protruding out his rolled down window, and he is mouthing something and pointing at me. I became cognizant of my malformed facial expression, a look somewhere in between disgust and fear.  And then, there it was; the whistle. As if I were a dog who heard a high-pitch which no human could ascertain; the crumbling feeling in my stomach returned. I slowed to a halt and waited for my lane to get a good head start before passing the red mini-van without a second glance.

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