It is a crazy feeling to find yourself in The Place to which you have been attached by a fizzle of excitement for months. The tinseled mirage in your mind materializes around you and it is not at all what you had imagined, for it is impossible to conjure up the weight of all-encompassing stimulation. The aroma of halal, spice and biryani, hot dogs and mustard, croissants and butter. Mixed and mingling, competing for nostril space. The monstrous towers, the florid gothic architecture, the industrial brick and dainty fire escapes, all competing for visual attention (I think my third eye must have opened). The only thing that remains exact is the excitement, now amplified, screaming (fever pitch). You knew it would be worth seeing- you willed it into existence!
I took as many photos as I could on my way from Penn station to a Prêt-à-Manger twenty-five minutes away, in true tourist fashion. I rolled my suitcase past a million Prêts- they seemed to appear more frequently than 7/11, Coffee Bean and Starbucks combined.
I paused, as a normal person would, at a red light, entranced by the smoking potholes. As if lifted straight from a movie, I watched as a man in red tweed and a knitted beanie jay-walked across the street, escaping a Taxi cab collision within an inch of his life. I wonder what music was playing through his earphones, the soundtrack that made him feel like he could walk on water. How bold and daring these New Yorkers must be to so stylishly flirt with death.
At one junction, I am the ONLY one waiting for the green light.
I took photos of the pedestrians, the yellow cabs, the double decker buses and all sorts of peculiarities. As I whipped out my phone for a picture of the Empire State poking through buildings, I caught a man’s eye. He gave me a knowing smile, as if we were in agreement over his favourite city or as if I reminded him of how it felt to be new.
People rule the city (totalling 8.6 million, apparently). The hoards are the main attraction, a World Wonder, rushing over the streets like a force of nature. So many humans had earphones plugged into their heads, each walking at their own pace to their own beat. Yet, they were united in motion, a flurry of boots and coats in the fall.
I swear I saw R. Kelly’s twin.
I saw a cop in blue uniform eating a doughnut, no joke.
I could not tear my eyes away from this tall, slender man with platinum blond hair, sharp features, and killer cheekbones as he threw some rubbish away with a flick of his wrist. He strutted off, as Vogue as ever.
I looked up into a conference room on the third floor, where a man stood, hands on his hips, surveying his imaginary executive board.
I watched a man shift in his loose trousers, fiddling with his belt at the crosswalk.
“We have nature, we have Central Park!”
Surrounded by concrete, our modern forts, the golden foliage is like honey to the soul.
Construction work is here, there, and everywhere. I fell asleep to the sound of a jackhammer and woke up to sounds of engines, beeps, and honks. It felt right, waking up in the bundle of heavy hotel sheets. I gazed down into the streets often and looked into the windows across from me, half expecting to see a naked person (as per the movies).
Where is your respite? There is no place to be idle – only shade between buildings. I missed seeing the sky, my glorious Californian sunsets.
On the Subway carriage: a man snoring loudly beside me, a woman with her eyes closed, standing upright. Another against the wall, sleeping.
I went on a date with an investment banker who averaged three hours of sleep a night.
“Why on earth are you here with me?!” I asked him.
“Don’t worry, I’m used to it.”
He said he was trying to make it as an actor, trying to “catch up to people who do this full time.”
Passion, security, sleep- can’t have it all, can we?
I might just prefer sleepy Southern California.