New York

The joy of the weekend continued when I got to New York on Monday. It was bound to; I was as excited about getting to the US as a child is about Christmas. The journey caused the usual amount of stress. You always just want to get it over with, I don’t find anything enjoyable about long haul flying any more. When we arrived at JFK that should have been it, but of course there was immigration to get through, and for some reason the whole world decided to arrive in New York that night, so I was in for a very long wait. The flight had touched down at 8pm; three hours later, I was just approaching the top of the immigration queue. The longer I had to queue the more time I had to think about all that could go wrong when I made it to my immigration agent. I was exhausted and anxious, as I approached the agent’s booth I just wanted to be out of there and I couldn’t help thinking that the agent had my future in his hands. My near future, at least.

After answering the standard questions and giving them my fingerprints, I was waved through, as I should have expected to be. My energy levels were so depleted by then, I couldn’t contemplate finding the subway and waiting for a train that would take the best part of an hour to get me to the hotel. I stumbled outside and got in a cab, my first ever ride in a yellow New York taxi, and I was willing to pay whatever it cost, I just needed to get to a bed.

The taxi fare was quite significant, but I was at the hotel and in bed within half an hour of leaving JFK, and I was happy. The brief glimpses of Manhattan that I got from the taxi window were stunning, and enough to restore some child like excitement in me. I’d look forward to getting out there and exploring the next day.

Despite my tiredness I slept terribly that night. I awoke at 3am, thinking it was 8am, and it was hard to get back to sleep after that because my body didn’t understand jet lag. The next day I was running on sugar as I strolled around the city in blazing sunshine. It was fantastic to see Central Park and Times Square again, places that had lost some of their shine the last time I was there five years ago, because of the bad time I didn’t know I was going through. This trip was much more like my first trip to New York, I almost could have skipped around, had I the energy. For that first day I didn’t mind wading through air that was thick with the smell of petrol fumes and pretzels.

By the evening I was completely done in again, because I had to do all that walking, there was no other way to see all that I wanted to see. I was due to meet S, a native New Yorker who I got chatting due last year when he was on a visit to London. He’d be taking me to a meeting in the theatre district, where I was going to see the new stage production of Amélie later that night. I’d been to this meeting on my last visit to New York, and I remembered it well. Situated in an AA ‘clubhouse’ round the corner from Times Square, it was very much a gay meeting, full of loud frivolous chatter that reminded me of the Friday meeting back home.

My conversation with S before and after the meeting was easy and warm, because I wanted to secure a new friendship in New York and because I was in a great mood that night. Before I had to head to the theatre, we agreed to meet again the following day, a little earlier, so we could go for a walk together.

The show was excellent, entertaining and loyal to the original film. Even as I was enjoying it I knew I’d probably never see a show in New York again, given the ridiculous prices for tickets.

The next day, when it was time to meet S I was exhausted again. This would become a running theme through the holiday: my stamina just isn’t what it used to be, and with the unusually warm temperatures that have lasted all week, I’ve been getting worn out by 3pm every day. I felt that announcing I was tired would be letting S down, so I said nothing and agreed to go on a long walk with him through the upper west side, before a meeting that was happening later on there. With the sun beating down on us the whole time, I don’t know how I didn’t collapse at any point. When we could finally sit down at the meeting, I’d been quiet for several hours due to my tiredness and I felt bad for having been poor company. S was still willing to get dinner after the meeting with me, but that had already been agreed and I wondered if he was sticking to the arrangement more out of politeness than wish. The meeting we attended was even busier and louder than the previous evening, so I’d have had no hope of sharing or getting to know anyone there. Dinner was a quiet and thankfully brief affair as S had a self imposed deadline of 9pm for going home. I liked the guy and would be happy to stay in touch with him, it’s not clear if he feels the same. I haven’t spoken to him since that night. It’s not the sort of thing you ask someone, is it – do you want to stay in touch with me? Oh well, this one will have to play out however life wants it to.

Thursday I left the heat of New York to head to Chicago. More about that in the next instalment.

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