When you see the photos, you think you are seeing the place as it is. But the lens was filtered. It’s too…
While those days in the photos do exist, there are always flaws lingering in the background. Like the flies that follow your cheap perfume, these flaws irritate you when you’re supposed to be happy. Enjoying yourself.
You look around quickly, seeing a great number of beautiful, well-dressed people. Smiling as they enjoy Chicago’s hot summer.
You see the clean, yet aged buildings.
The vibrant, freshly cut grass that was surrounded by beautiful flowers.
The breeze that gently chills your skin on this hot summer day.
The pee stains that stain the sidewalk.
The pee stains?
A disgusting man in worn-out clothes is sitting next to it, holding out a McDonald's cup. The gentle breeze blows his stench into your face, making you want to gag.
You start to think, perhaps, the grass is vibrant because it is fake.
But why do you want to think about that now?
Ignore the dampness.
Holding your breath, you walk past the hobo, not wanting the smell of the man and his relative, the pee stain, to further sour your mood. You decide to freshen your mind with the view of happy families, smiling as they too ignore the homeless man. The jingling of the coins in his cup, the sounds of his pleas for money, it all becomes distant. Simply becoming background noise, like the rustling of leaves or honking of car horns.
You follow the happy families as they seem to know the best place to get away from this nonsense. Most of the children have gathered at the Crown Fountain as it was too hot for any of them to do anything else but play in water. You could hear their giggles and cheerful screams from the children as the water from the mouths of the crown fountain jets out onto them. It is no wonder families are gravitating to this area.
You stand, marveling at the freshwater spraying out the mouths of the people on the giant screen. It’s an odd, yet lovely attraction. The beautiful, clean faces of the residents of Chicago on those screens; It’s obvious that the people of Chicago are welcoming and kind-hearted. But for them to be spitting out water onto those below, is it not crude?
Your thoughts are interrupted when you are shoved by a little black boy running by. You do little to hide your growing irritation. You yell at the child, telling him to watch where he is going.
Why is the child allowed to run around so freely anyhow?
Where are his parents?
Probably not watching him since his wet orange shirt is only a few shades darker than the boy’s teeth.
Does he not own a toothbrush?
You feel the need to gag as a sudden waft of his stench fills your senses.
Is he no better than that hobo and the pee stain?
“Sorry!” The boy quickly apologizes with a wide smile, making you feel like your anger is misdirected and uncalled for.
Chicago residents are supposed to be welcoming and kind-hearted, so the child means well, right? You attempt a smile and nod at the child, who runs away before acknowledging your acceptance of his apology.
Push the child out of your mind.
You don’t want him to spoil your mood, do you?
You look back out to the fountains.
The children playing in the water look happy to be there as the water cools their heated skin.
You give a jealous sigh, wishing you had spent your youth in such a wonderful place so that you may enjoy the water too, but you make do with the light spray and the cool water that pools at your feet, wetting your sandals.
You crouch where you stand, making sure not to go so low that you wet your bottom. You smile as you people-watch. The wet clothes on the children cling to their skin, but the children are too happy to let the uncomfortable feeling distract them. The kids with dry clothes are sitting like you, on the sidelines and watching others have fun. They aren’t touching the water, not even with their shoes. Their strict parents must not want their kids running around with wet clothes.
Your thoughts are once again interrupted by the child from before. You watch as he runs past a mother who is kneeling as she takes a video of her little one waddling in the water. She gets splashed and immediately turns to yell at the boy, just as you had done.
“What is wrong with you!? Watch where you’re going!”
“Sorry, Ma’am!” The little black boy slows down as he apologizes.
He gives a toothy grin, once again exposing his yellow, crooked teeth. She waves her hand at the child, shooing him away, so she can go back to taking a video of her own child, who’s blissfully ignorant toddler-brain kept him unfazed by the yelling.
You watch the boy as he walks away.
You get a closer look at him.
The color of his orange shirt is faded.
There are fresh stains of god-knows-what all over his outfit.
The boy doesn’t walk too far away from you. He goes to the back of the face screens, where a few other black kids had gathered.
You scrunch your face. Any collection of black children in a secluded area can’t be good. But, instead of acting on your suspicions, you watch the black children.
The water behind the fountain trickles down lazily. It flows like a waterfall, too boring compared to the water being spat out in the front.
The black children allow the water to flow over them with no enthusiasm.
Instead of playing in the water, they rubbed at their skin and the stains in their clothes.
You watch as they take off their shirts, wring the water out, and place them on a dry spot on the pavement.
You watch as one of them takes a bar of soap out of their pants pocket and quickly rubs it on their armpit and face before handing it to another child, who does the same.
You turn away in disgust. Looking away from yet another mini attraction that is often filtered out of Chicago’s images.
You take a few deep breaths, trying to calm your mind and bring it back to a peaceful state, before standing and walking away.
It’s best to ignore what the photos don’t show.
Yet your mood is already spoiled.
You gag when one of your deep breaths is flavored with the stench.
The stench of that homeless man.
The Stench of that pee stain.
The Stench of that little black boy.
You walk towards The Bean. There, you hope to not see Chicago’s truth.
How could it be the truth if the city itself is trying to hide it?
When you get to The Bean, your spoiled mood has mellowed down. You stare at your warped reflection, finding humor in your own image. But you can help but look at the reflections surrounding your own.
The blur of colors mixed together, making the faces unrecognizable. You start to feel a bit dizzy, looking at how fast the colors change as children run by.
And then the smell comes back. That horrible stench you couldn’t put your finger on. Puke? Piss? Shit? you had no idea. And it seems you were the only one gagging from the smell.
Perhaps, Chicago residents are just too used to living in a shithole veiled in beauty.