To celebrate the third day of summer, I sit drinking wine with Uno in his garden. I call him by his first name now, instead of Dr. Cohen. (Though since you’re fourteen, when you meet him, you should still call him Dr. Cohen.) Uno’s father was Jewish and Russian, and his mother was atheist and Swedish. She named him Uno after her own father, Uno told me.
“I didn’t know Swedes name their childen for Spanish numbers,” I say.
His blue eyes fail to generate anything that resembles a jolly twinkle. He has the most level gaze of any man I’ve ever known. Since I’m not sure whether he was offended by my witticism about his name, I change the subject. I ask what he knows about the state of local politics.
“The few people who remain in government do whatever they want, to little effect. The City of Chicago has annexed many suburbs; and some suburbs are claiming their own vast territories, rewriting boundaries to include adjacent suburbs. It means little, of course, since government officials have so few ways to even communicate with those of us who are their citizenry. I feel scarcely governed at all, anymore, do you?”
“Are you paying your taxes?”
“So far I am. Though I feel foolish each time I do.”
“I pay my utility bills. That’s about it.”
“Well, it wouldn’t make much sense to pay property taxes on the house you live in since it doesn’t belong to you.” Uno says this mildly, without judgment. I know he was acquainted with the previous occupants of the house, but I’ve asked him little about them. I’m in no mood to escalate my sense of guilt.
Jill Riddell is a writer in Chicago. She teaches at the School of the Art Institute and has a weakness for nature, magic, and pennies abandoned in sidewalk cracks.