Friday, 14 May 2010
Big walk home
(part 3 of 3)
I am at 80th Street and 5th. I do the calculations in my head- 2 Avenues and 67 blocks.
I can walk it.
I've spent the afternoon lazing around in Central Park on the Great Lawn after the fight with The American. I've read my book, listened to my ipod and gazed skyward at the sun through scrunched up eyes. A hot breezy day that brought all forms of life out- school kids, Upper East Side Mummies, buskers, the unemployed, runners, cyclists, even a man playing the bagpipes. Unlike 95% of New Yorkers, I bet he'd know where Wales was. I didn't get a chance to ask him though, as he was surrounded by tourists asking him to play some Rod Stewart.
For a while it was a kind of nirvarna, my spot in the middle of the park. I wondered how long I could stay there, being left alone to just stare at the sky? Until 5.30 p.m. was the answer, when all these baseball teams arrived and I realised I was smack bang in the middle of everyone's outfield. Two guys came up to me and politely told me if I stayed I risked being hit by the ball.
"Shouldn't you all still be in work feeding the corporate beast?" I yell at no one in particular.
So with my peaceful escape cut short I decide I'm going to walk it, all the way home. I need to get my head straight, decide if I should apologise. I want to listen to my thoughts, soak in the changing landscape as I head downtown, so I leave the ipod off.
The Upper East Side never feels quite like New York to me. It's so...serene. Where I am on 5th, the park is on my right, walled off by 4 foot high stone. There are benches on my side of the wall, with wet paint signs on, which people are sat on anyway. I wonder who was the first to put their hands on and declare "S'ok people-it's dry now!"
Over the road are generic apartment buildings with grand awnings and doormen. Thin, tanned women pass me, wearing preppy clothes and walking tiny, rat-like dogs. It's so quiet as if people are scared to interrupt the monied hush. There are hardly any black people. There are hardly any brown people. There are no visible homeless.
When I hit 60th, the restraint of the U.E.S. gives way to an explosion of people and traffic and noise. The Mac shop, it's glass cube, like an alien ship that landed in the middle of the city.
Opposite it, the gilded and newly renovated Plaza, with it's $20 million condos and tourists waiting outside for the movie bus tours. As I pause to cross the street on one side I am flanked by some French businessmen, on the other- a man in a rickshaw.
I take a right at 58th to cross over to 7th Avenue and grab an iced coffee from a food truck to fuel me up. I head South again, hitting luggage and camera shops and remembering what is coming up ahead: Times Square, the frenetic beast. The centre of the world, yet the middle of nothing. Neon winks at me seductively in the distance.
Then I am in it: total sensory overload, lights, noise, the smell of pollution mixed with caramalised nuts and hot dogs, people everywhere, their necks crained at the man-made beautiful ugly in the sky. Everyone's selling something: "Do you like Comedy?" "Hey Miss, you wanna bus tour?" "Sunglasses 5 bucks!" Teenage girls in too tight dresses and too high heels, out of towners lining up to go into an open fronted bar and drink watered down well drinks. The TKTS see-thru stair case that's in the Jay Z and Alicia video, around that the highest signs, clamouring up the side of skyscrapers.
It flirts with me, entices me, begs to be photographed. No. I am not a tourist anymore. I can't get my camera out in bloody Times Square....
I take out my camera and snap. Just one. Naughty neon clad whore.
I seek solace, escape into Sephora, but in this branch they are playing Abba's greatest hits. I go around and rub $160 face cream on my hands and play with all the sparkly make up. I put some bronzer over my newly freckled face and then I leave. The make-up makes me want to make-up. I'm going to say sorry to The American.
Another 10 blocks and I am at 34th st, dominated by Macy's- busy people everywhere, criss crossing my pathway, racing like worker ants to their destination. I go the wrong way at the spot where Broadway crosses diagonally. Then a whole block filled with people dressed in Mexican costumes for Cinco de Mayo.
The sun is setting and cars are turning their lights on. What time is out? I don't have a phone. How long have I been walking for? I see a sign opposite Penn station asking me to ''Feel the Love' for crocs. I scoff loudly to myself. No more than I will feel the love for a child molesting Tory, thanks.
Midtown makes way for Chelsea. The outfits are more interesting, people are younger, hardly any suits and plenty of gays. I pass the road where The Teenager's first school was. The Jamba juice where I would met her after school and she would tell me how much she hated it here and wanted to go home. And I would say "We are home. This is where we live now."
Then I'm into familiar territory, lower Chelsea, past all the shops and cafes I frequent and and I am nearly there. I pop into the rip-off Gourmet market where your groceries still get thrown at you despite the high prices. I buy a chicken to make me and The American some dinner. I cross over 7th and take the right onto W13th Street and I am in Greenwich village, the trees, now lush and leafy with Spring, sweep aside to welcome me back.
I climb the three flights of steep stairs to my apartment that always leave me breathless, no matter how much I go to the gym. My apartment is called a 4th floor walk-up, but it's on the 3rd floor. There is no ground floor here you see. Ground is first. Another thing lost in translation.
The American is lying on the bed watching TV.
"I'm sorry!" he says pleadingly as soon as I walk into the bedroom.
"No. I'm sorry!" I say.
And that is how it goes, we both say sorry at the same time, like we are in a cheesy Rom Com. Now I am pissed off I apologised at all, but then I remember what Dr Phil says above love not being about 'winning' and 'scoring points'. Hurumph.
For two people who rarely admit they are wrong, this is quite a moment. I lie down on the bed next to him and I can feel the muscles in my legs starting to ache.
Walking is easy in Manhattan. It's all straight lines. If only relationships were the same.