Fiction

Hyde Park Walking Tour

Ahhhhhhh…ll right, do we have everyone? Everyone for the Hyde Park walking tour, this way…

Hyde Park. Chicago. Illinois. See our many amenities—schools for foreign languages, like macroeconomics. A bakery that feeds and waits on you in buttery French. What’s that? Yes, that’s right: white folks! We do have white folks in Hyde Park! Look how they walk around safely. Asians and Latinos, too. Even old-money Black folks….Well, old-ish. Hyde Park, ladies and gentlemen: our oasis in an oasis! But bits of sand always fly in.

Kindly look this way, away from the bits of trash…sweatshirt crumpled on the tracks. Please pay no attention that we treat Hyde Park like a too-long girlfriend…crumpled napkin with orange pizza grease. Look to your right and left instead—notice how beautiful she still is: strong trees, sturdy bricks, green lots. You can see it if you don’t look her head-on—she can’t keep her eyes soft when she looks back. Rubber ring of the mouth of a condom, or a balloon. Still can’t see it sir? Try squinting—or bits from the outside blow in.

Certain maps—made of paper that folds to the size of a brain cell, drawn in disappearing ink—say civilization stops at 18th Street, doesn’t start again until 47th. Those maps have thin spots in between, hopscotch from the Loop to the South Loop to Bronzeville to us, the edge of the world. Further, there be dragons! But see how people slow in Hyde Park, linger like in a small town…until a laugh too big or a bang too loud, when we tense, and wonder if that will be the thing to pry our fingernails off the urban edge, send us hurtling to burst on rocks below. Because, ladies and gentlemen, Hyde Park also has…guilt. White liberal guilt, black professional guilt, young Turk guilt, battle-weary guilt, believer guilt, heathen guilt, survivor guilt, failure guilt…we’re all ashamed of ourselves, for wishing Hyde Park had more like ourselves. The bits from the outside creep in.

First developed while a member of the Poetry Performance Incubator of Chicago’s Guild Literary Complex.

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