New York, New York

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.

***

SIGHTINGS

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.

Britons

If you want to survive in Dorset, and maybe England in general, you must talk about the weather. “It’s not as bad as we were led to believe!” or “awful, isn’t it?” or “lovely weather  today!” You must keep an optimistic skepticism, as my dad called it, an umbrella in your car. If you want to be British, apologise for the state of the weather. Apologise when you want to squeeze past the aisle. Apologise for the cheese that’s a little too hard for your liking. Try to find every opportunity to tell people what you’re sorry for and to thank them very much.

Vegetables don’t seem to be the staple; it’s truly tea and coffee. Coffee in the morning, after lunch, sometimes after dinner. My favourite thing is crumbly, soaked, buttery cookies. I was only offered one, but I wanted another. I liked seeing people waiting for the train with a Starbucks in hand and a book in the other. On the MTR in Hong Kong, heads hang like beans on their stalks, looking onto phones that make obsolete reveries and conversation. I saw a fifty year old couple on the train in England, sharing a packet of gummy worms. And a group of kids that finished a packet before the train even started.

I’ve been indulgent with dessert and family, watching my dad in his element. What’s a man like around his mother? It’s very telling. With a glass of wine, a hearty dinner, he’s smiling and energetic. He rips open the plastic of a magazine and lets it float to the ground. Care-free and careless go hand in hand. Grandma will pause what she’s doing to answer your question. Like dad leaving his soup to help me find an adapter. Both their tongues wag in concentration, and they say “ooh yes” in enthusiastic affirmation. Kind and yielding seems to run in the family. After lunch with my grandmother’s sister and her husband, I feel as though I’ve made some very good friends. I was sorry to see them go.

SENSE

One thing led to another,
or several things in four dimensions,
and it feels like it’s your fault.
Sometimes mine, you’d agree.

I don’t know who said what first,
or who missed a beat.
For the hopeful, “later” means “soon”
and “no” means “yes”.
I mean what I say-
Are you a hopeful too?

I have my theories as to why
people are cold and step on toes
but I only know what I’ve got
and not how we got here.
There is no sequence:
Minds are not equipped for when
things happen all at once.

It’s like opening your mouth
when your jaws are locked.
It’s like screaming
when the music is too loud.
It’s this tangled feeling like,
I want to love you
but I can’t stand you.
And I don’t know how to fix it.

ACCLIMATISE

Sea foam, like erupting clouds… As if the sky had fallen. Beer bottle aimed down my throat, you are a speckle that seldom dances behind my eyelids. I don’t even mind the coarse sand against my shin, between my inadequate thighs. Salt. I like the salt, even if it is too sharp a taste, too difficult to wash out of my hair. And I’ve stopped fighting the sound of your berating. Yes I am all of the above. What now?

Serenity: It lies somewhere between realising that some messes don’t need to be fixed and knowing that you can coexist with chaos- because it will follow you until you silence it with a knowing look.

FOR YOU

For you my dear I’d lose my petals
stamped between your pages
what use are they to me?
I don’t need birds or bees

For you my dear I’ll count my blessings
something for my tendrils
in case of rain or drought
unwavering throughout

For you I’d bend my stems
away from the sun
but the one
thing I’ll ask of you is:
please don’t uproot me