It's hot here today, the type of heat that clings to your clothes and weighs down your lungs. Heavy air. When it comes, we know. The killing season has started.
It's not that souls out here don't die on a daily basis. They do, just like they do on every other corner of this world. It's just that when this heat hits, they die faster. Something in the air must feed the need to kill, I suppose.
Air -- in the city, at least -- it's a gritty air, the type you breathe in and taste dust, grime, exhaust, and exasperated sighs. On the outskirts of town, it gets better. Not perfect, but better. But it's here, in the city, where battle grit is drawn.
Some neighborhoods do well by day. They're bright and lively and violence is unleashed under the cover of darkness. Other areas, more to the south, they don't fare so well. Residents live a hell in sunlight and moonlight alike.
It is a hell, that paralysis that they feel called fear. Their neighborhoods have all the accoutrements of normalcy -- full schools, bustling religious sites, storefronts and the like. But they aren't normal. Normal isn't being afraid to walk outside past a certain hour. Normal isn't a cold jolt down your chest when tires screech nearby or a car backfires. And well, as normal as dying is for all of us someday, normal isn't it happening to teenagers and 20 year olds.
The tragic and ironic thing about normal, of course, is that it's a moving target. We see it all the time. The status quo shifts. What was horrific yesterday becomes a shrug and a shake of the head today.
At least eighty-two people were shot in the last few days.
It tells you a lot about our situation when we can barely keep up the count.
Fourteen of them died.
The response to such surges of violence doesn't change much. A lot of talk, perhaps a surge of police force as well, but in the end, as the leaves change so does the topic of conversation.
Every summer holiday, it goes boom, in the most spectacular of fashion.
And us? Here, in our city? When our daily habit becomes headline news, we spend lots of energy spinning our new normal. It's a blip on the radar. It's a fraction of the city. Overall violence is actually declining.
We hear it and say it so often it's almost as if we're trying to convince ourselves of a different reality.
Hearts and minds and all that.
Sweet home, Chicago.