The bustle of Grand Central Station a blur of yellow taxis and scissoring legs like always; I retrieve my luggage as well as I can amidst the tourists and the penny hustlers: Need a hand? No! And there’s a throng of bodies and sombody bumps into me on one side and again on the other and when at last I am at the hotel, I reach into my pocket to pay the cabbie and my cash is gone. I’m in New York for less than a minute and I’m out 50 bucks. Pickpockets; never happened to me before, and there’s always going to be a first. New York: The City so nice they named it twice.
In the hotel room, my luggage eats up the tiny space and I feel claustrophobia approaching; there is nothing outside but a brick wall and dark windows. I can hear the noise somewhere around the corner, far below. All my belongings in the room. I only lost cash, not my credit cards or anything, so I’m fine, but it still stings. I have no place to stay next week; I have two days to find a sublet and be at work as a happy new employee. I feel lonely and a thousand miles removed from everywhere; the TV offers a sort of companionship, but it’s not enough. I need closeness of some sort, a proximity to warm and breathing bodies, to conversation and laughter. But the money is gone, most of what I had for the week-end at least. I lock up and go out on the streets.
I wander aimlessly around midtown; everywhere, people pass by, laughing and talking, others beg for pennies, empty-eyed, while others yet have given up, collapsed on the street in a bundle of rags and themselves, the sharp stench of urine blending too easily with the passing Gucci and Armani. New York, the city I love and have loved since I first came here, is a cruel place and I can’t escape that. I remember the first time: A taxi bringing me from the airport and the legendary skyline moving steadily closer. And then, the many visits after that, approaching Manhattan from the north, always that same giddy feeling. The Empire State building…the icon of dated modern marvel. But like most, I now prefer the Chrysler building by far, though of course, the view of the city can only be enjoyed from the Empire State.
There was always solace here: Perhaps in the massive canyons of steel and concrete and glass, I can lose myself easily. I feel insignificant here, a mote among the giants and whatever ails me pales into the same kind of insignificance; also, the life, the vibrancy of a place that never quite settles down is a godsend. People getting on with it: It can be such a beautiful thing. The lights…the lights.
And yet, tonight, I can’t quite relax…there is an unease in me, an unhappiness that even a bite of the big apple can’t negate. I feel cast adrift, restless, hungry. This was to be an escape, but how can you escape yourself and your missteps? I stand on the top of Times Square and head back east…I walk up 3rd Avenue and am bemused to find myself amongst such a collection of Irish pubs that I might as well be on the Emerald Isle…it’s almost funny and they’re all too clean, too polished. I go over on 1st, look down toward the UN and walk further up to check out the bridge. It strikes me that I have never been this way and I am childishly curious. It’s massive, what can I say? Too tired to appreciate it fully, I decide to pack it in for the night, get some rest and save some cash, but I go to a bar anyway; it’s quiet in there, away from the genreal public that we are. I have brought a book and try reading, but I can’t concentrate, there’s too much going on in my head, anger and darkness and loneliness and regret and I sit here, right here, in the heart of this city, this country, this world, this universe, among all these people and still I’m alone and what am I doing wrong? and then the bartender comes over and asks, in his Irish accent, if there’s anythin’ wrong, like?
no home/pocket picked/nervous/new job/new life/alone
I put my book down, lifting my glass as he looks at me with, for whatever reason, some mild interest, and hey, it’s just a slow night in here anyway and my mouth opens and these words come spilling out like beer from the tap and stop me if you’ve heard this one before:
“Well, there was this girl…”