I happily accepted the invitation to dinner, knowing all the while that I'd be tired and facing my not-atypical evening crankiness. But I've not eaten on the 95th floor of anything before. And as I'm attempting to expand my horizons, it seemed like something that should be experienced.
The past few days, lingering cold and forgotten anti-depressants notwithstanding, have been wonderful. I wore a low-cut dress yesterday, finally abandoning my tugs at the neckline and admitting that the new garment was designed to fit that way and I was, in fact, showing off my breasts and there wasn't a lot to be done about it. Luckily, my meetings were mostly internal so I knew the men who would glance down from eye contact and rolled my eyes at most of them. I accepted female compliments on my pretty red shoes and smiled and laughed and chatted the day away.
I wore the same dress to dinner, deciding I might as well continue the look and paused when washing my hands to shake my head at my exposed curves. "No, it's not risque for normal women," I recalled my comment to a colleague when I asked her if I and the dress were inappropriate. "It's just unusual for me and I'm very conscious of it." The poor outfit may join the ranks of another 'really pretty but nowhere to wear it' gray dress. But, for the evening I did let the hem flirt with my knees and (mostly) embraced feeling a little bit sexy with my daring neckline.
I dressed not for comfort or style the next day, but came to work, crisply pressed (ironed, one might say) suit with a soft sweater beneath. And work we did - my feet beginning to ache in my comfortable flats as I answered questions and giggled at jokes and did my best to be adorable and charming and intensely intelligent. I congratulated myself on impressing both the familiar and novel as the frequency of handshakes slowed and I was finally able to emerge into the rain and make my way back to the hotel.
I was here for mere moments, exchanging my now-slightly-wrinkled jacket for a more forgiving cashmere sweater, washing my face and applying more powder before prancing downstairs so the friendly people under the heat lamps could hail a cab and open my door for me. I proceeded to the Sears Tower (apparently we boycott its new name - sorry about that, Willis), overtipped my driver and met my party before beginning the security procedures that would allow us entry.
I tried to be subtle about taking photos but I'd never been there and did think it pretty. I had white wine and a nice steak, pumpkin soup to start and pumpkin cheesecake to finish. I talked and laughed some more, answered questions and asked some of my own, before we called it an early night. Thrilled with the idea of being in bed before 11, I tucked my arm through that of my companion, located several levels above me in the business hierarchy and politely declined his invitation for a drink when we returned to the lobby.
I frowned at him when he continued to coax me, saying I was tired and still not feeling great and if he wanted to talk to me, he should have seated himself closer at dinner (for I know I'm delightful and people do enjoy my company). (I'm kidding.) I am apparently easily manipulated or overly permissive because we sat with knees touching as I sipped a strawberry champagne cocktail and chatted about strategy. "I'll get it," he said when I opened my purse in search of lip gloss and he mistook the search for money. "Of course you will," I replied cheekily. "You're lucky I came at all and I'm prettier than you are."
"Both are true," he gallantly agreed, so, a little tipsy, I kissed his cheek before heading upstairs and shooing him toward another group of colleagues across the room.
I nearly overslept for the next day, emerging from my room rumpled and rushed for my 7:00 breakfast meeting. Blackberry humming against my hip most of the day - announcing the next meeting before I was finished with the previous, demanding answers to questions and quick introductions - I began to drag when having to deliver unpleasant news or engage in difficult conversations. It was an important and productive day, but it drained me of all energy.
"What do you like about Italian food?" the concierge asked when I requested a reservation for the evening. I stared at her blankly and she kindly made the question multiple choice and called Volare with my full support.
"I've been there," I told her. "I had a cheesy chicken risotto that I've craved ever since." Determined to enjoy the evening - the one most eagerly anticipated of this trip - I came upstairs to shower and shore up energy before meeting one of my oldest and dearest friends. I blinked back tears upon hugging her tightly in the lobby, we talked and giggled over a delicious meal and nice bottle of white, and traded questions and stories about financial planning and important careers and boys. And, much like the cheesy chicken risotto, I wished the conversation in the busy little restaurant would never end.
I was snuggled under fluffy white blankets soon after I hugged her goodbye with a firm mental promise to see her again soon. She makes me happy. The city sparkled outside in the bitter cold and I felt I'd experienced bits of it over the evenings - north, south and center - and was happily exhausted.
I wish I had time to shop and wander the streets, taking photos that weren't through windows. I wish I could solve all the problems that exist at work, for the people I've met are exquisitely smart and capable and kind. I wish someone were here with me, for flirting over email isn't nearly as good as kissing and touching in person. I wish I had remembered my anti-depressants, for my head aches and is bothered by snippets of obsessive worry and irrational paranoia at times, though it's mostly under control for I know its cause. I wish even my most comfortable flats didn't make my feet wince in pain.
Wishes aside though, it's been a wonderful week. While sad to leave Chicago behind tomorrow, I'm always tempted by its proximity and comforted by the routine of visiting again next year.