Friday, 1 July 2011

Welsh Alien (no longer) in New York.

31st May 2011

I am at Heathrow arrivals with The Teenager, excess baggage, actual and emotional at our feet.

In the last day we have said goodbye to New York. I've embraced teary friends, sobbed at JFK over the luggage charges I couldn't pay, then ended up on the floor, open suitcases with knickers and photo frames strewn.

Oh. And Swansea got promoted to the premiership. That's a catastrophic 24 hours by anyone's standards.

I stare at the luggage carousel and memories of my last full day in NYC drift through my head: Memorial Day Sunday with Sara, her husband George and baby Ce Ce at The Frying Pan- a rickety boat bar on the Hudson River, packed with Fleet week sailors flirting with excitable New Jersey women. Crammed in on a tiny table in the direct beat of the blazing sun with a bucket of Coronas and plates piled with burgers and ribs, looking up at the summer skies.

Ce Ce-who I'd known since she was a bud in Sara's belly does her new thing: cocks her head to the side and bats her eyelashes. I melt because I don't even like babies, but I love this one. And she loves her Auntie Em. She doesn't know her Auntie Em won't be here tomorrow, or the next day, or the day after that. George prepares to take her home to bed and I think how she's not going to recognise me next time I'm back. The tears start. 

Sara and I stay on together alone to say our goodbyes. We walk off the boat and sit on a park bench overlooking the river and even though we don't smoke, we smoke a few cigarettes while watching the sienna sun melt into the horizon. New York's giving me the last flash of her stocking, teasing me, reminding me how alluring she can be when she wants. The tears come thick and fast.

“Ugh Gu Gu Ga gaaaaa Gu, Gu. Guuu” I gulp to Sara. She cries back, but in a far less ungainly manner.

“You're the bubbles in the champagne Emma Smith.”

I wail a thank you for that and for making me feel one of her family when the new one I had was crumbling. 

The next day at 14th Street and 8th Ave I meet Rhiannon-another Welsh woman in New York who opened up a whole new world of friends for me when I was so desperate to meet people. She brings Tiger the dog and her boyfriend Chris to the corner and everyone cries and hugs together. Except the dog, who pisses on the side of a kebab stall instead.

Leaving her is tough because she needs me as much as I've needed her. The hugs are really tight. The crying gets loud enough for New Yorkers to stop and stare. I thank her for showing me such a rare kindness of heart.

Later that day, as we haul our suitcases into the car service for the airport, we say goodbye to Laura and Harriet. They close the doors on a sobbing me and a much less emotional Teenager. Harriet crying her 9 year old heart out and Laura teary too. They helped us so much when we desperately needed it, allowing me to give New York my very best effort. I will always be in debt.

All of these woman and more saved me in New York. Strong, wonderful females who were there for me when It mattered. 


Back at Heathrow and bleary from the Red Eye flight, I stand at the carousel waiting for the four bags that hold all our possessions. For the second time in as many years I have packed our lives into several suitcases, giving away or selling furniture and stuff, so we can move back across the Atlantic.

Aside from those bags I have nothing. New York cleaned me out. No money, no job, a broken marriage and my dreams of life there truly over. Probably forever-certainly for now.

I loved NYC but I suspect she never really gave a shit about me. She is used to everyone adoring her, constantly flattered by the attentions of men and women. She took my heart and gave me back the smallest moments-just enough for me to cling onto, without ever committing.

New York mirrors your mood. When you're having a great day she loves you with passion and gives you all she can. When you're having a bad one, she kicks you in the bollocks. Every day you are writing your own New York film, with you as the star and the streets as your location. Your extras are all around you- the crazies preaching their messages, the homeless slumped on the church steps, the rich high above in their homes in the sky and the drunks spilling out of the Happy Hours.

All of life resides in NYC, all kinds of everything-The great American experiment in democracy that began and ended there. Everyone finds their own New York-there's a city for all. I've shared some of mine on this blog over the last two years.

For now though, I have to put my city away for another time. Because it wasn't our time. Not this time. So for now I blow her a kiss and hope she sleeps well.

Then I remember she doesn't sleep at all...

7th June.

I am in London and starting a new job in TV.

It's hard to take in. It all happened in a week. I am trying to process how everything has fallen into place since I came home to the UK. From the tiniest interaction to the big things that really matter. 

If the Universe gives you signs, it told me over and over to leave New York. It threw bad luck after unlucky co-incidence after so-crazy-you-couldn't-make-it-up stuff at me.

Now after two years and one week my slate is clean and the stress behind me. I stand looking at my new start, my blankness, my paper ready to be filled with words and life and experiences and I feel excited, a little scared and more positive than I have been in a long time.

I am now a Welsh Alien In London.


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