This past weekend I drove up to Chicago to see one of my best friends. I’ve been doing this roadtrip on a semi regular basis for the past 2 years, but given my impending relocation to New York City this one was the last, at least for the foreseeable future. So I was more than a little wistful from the outset, and more than a lot reluctant to say goodbye to my girlfriend when the weekend ended. And so it was that the goddesses saw fit to bless me with automobile failure. As I went to leave on Sunday afternoon I discovered that the difficulty I had experienced shifting gears on my way into the Windy City had increased, and there was no way I could risk the 300 mile trip with such an unreliable clutch. I would have to take my car to a Chicago mechanic the next day. So I was granted a reprieve from tearful farewells, and allowed to spend one more night in the company of loved ones.
When I set off again on Monday afternoon, $200 poorer but 24 hours of love richer, I spent much of my drive home thinking about the qualities of friendship, and the ever elusive but increasingly possible state of being known as “happiness.” And the path of these ponderings kept leading me back to Friday:
I arrived in Chicago late Thursday night. My girlfriend’s boyfriend (an awesome friend in his own right, hereafter referred to, for simplicity’s sake, as The Dude) let me in, put my things in the spare bedroom, and roused my girlfriend from bed to say hello. We talked and laughed together for a little while before exhaustion won out and we all retired to bed. When Friday morning dawned my girlfriend trudged off to work, chauffeured by The Dude. I made coffee and when The Dude returned we started talking about my move to New York - whether I was ready (hope so!), where I would live (don’t know!), what I would do (too many dreams to count!), who I could turn to there (???), and how I would start to build the life I want…it was this last question which led us to a course of action. I will be auditioning in New York. Ridiculous as it may sound, I never actually did that on my first stint in the city. And despite my relative comfort with St. Louis auditions, the thought of going to one in NYC is rather terrifying. But The Dude is an actor and singer as well, with significant experience in the realm of auditioning, and he immediately set about calming and preparing me. The two of us spent the morning going through his sheet music collection and then his ipod songs, seeking pieces I could use for an audition. By the time he left for work he’d found me several solid options, and he took those which were on hand to Xerox for me.
So the afternoon arrived, both my girlfriend and The Dude were at work, and I was alone in a Chicago apartment with (as far as I could tell) no neighbors home above or below me. And so…I sang. I sang Gilbert and Sullivan. I sang happy trilling soprano songs. I sang freely and without reservation and with a reckless joy I can only achieve when no one is listening.
After an hour or so heavy footsteps on the stairs announced the arrival of an upstairs neighbor, so I gave the vocal folds a rest and decided to channel my exuberance into another of my favorite arts: baking. I made chocolate chip cookies, my specialty, and I made them merrily. I listened to a lecture by Michael Marrus entitled Justice and Theatre: Great Moments in Great Trials and snorted out loud at the brilliance and arrogance of Oscar Wilde while sliding warm cookies off a baking sheet. I sighed contentedly while washing dishes and indulged myself freely in the gooey, buttery products of my afternoon.
When my friends came home from work we ordered Chicago style pizza and stuffed ourselves silly, talking and laughing and communing in the easy, relaxed manner that comes only with years of love and shared experiences. Eventually we shuffled off to bed again, and alone in the guest bedroom, as I wrapped myself in my girlfriend’s familiar and luxurious feather blanket, I paused to marvel at the buzz in my body, the hum in my heart - how a day of art and friendship had set my soul to singing.
This must be what heaven is like.