A first-person account from off the beaten track, as told to Anne Ford.
"I moved here from Austin July 6. I just graduated in May from the University of Texas. It would be a lie to say I know no one in Chicago, but it's certainly not true to say that I have any friends here either. I have a lot of acquaintances and Facebook friends. But none of those people are someone I could call up and be like, 'Hey, let's hang out.'
"I found an apartment on Craigslist that seemed too good to be true. The roommates were two young women who were creative types. So I sent this really long letter: 'I'm a really clean, friendly person; please accept me.' They sent a contract a couple days later, and I signed it and sent it back, and I sent them a big chunk of money, and it was done. But I don't think I felt relaxed until I walked up the stairs and saw that the apartment's real, the roommates are real, it's not creepy people who are going to murder me. Jobwise I'm still hunting, but that will come through soon, I hope.
"My dad and I drove a U-Haul here, and we towed my car behind. The first day we drove from Austin to Dallas-Fort Worth. The second day we drove to Kansas City. Then the next day we drove to Chicago, which was supposed to take eight hours but ended up taking, like, 11, because we stopped a couple times in Iowa, where the rest stops are surprisingly beautiful.
"So we ended up getting to Chicago about 8:30 that night. When my dad and I started approaching the city limits and seeing the buildings, that was the first time I started to feel sad, which was strange, 'cause that was the time I should have felt most excited. We had to drive through Wrigleyville right after a game, so that was insane. The sun was going down, and we just started lugging stuff up to my apartment. Then we went to 7-Eleven and got the best Slurpees that we ever had.
"It was really hard to get my mattress upstairs. It's a queen-size, and it's so heavy, but I love it. I got it when I was moving out of my first college apartment and I saw my neighbors carrying this mattress out and setting it next to the Dumpster. Technically it wasn't in the Dumpster; it was next to the Dumpster for, like, 20 seconds. I was like, 'Can I have that?' and they were like, 'Yeah, of course.' Maybe I'm just not spoiled enough to know what makes a good mattress, but to me it feels very luxurious. Maybe in five years I'll visit someone and lie down on their bed and be like, 'Oh my God, and all this time I thought I had a good mattress.'
"I am so worried about the winter here. I've only ever lived in Texas and Florida, so I don't know what it is to have a winter. I'm terrified. Everyone just tells me: 'Layer.' A coat that's like a Snuggie version of a sleeping bag—that's what I think I need."