Since my early childhood I believed that I was a New Yorker in exile. The atmosphere, the energy; I gobbled up every part of it that leaked through a TV or found its way to me via magazines, posters and books. I felt that not only had I the misfortune to have been born in the wrong country with the wrong accent but I also believed that one day, if I tried my very best, then New York might adopt me as one of its own.
My excitement for a holiday to NYC was of paramount importance then: as someone that comes from a rural area, would I enjoy it? Would I want to emigrate to New York? What would my girlfriend and I find there? Would she move in with me once we came back or would we just throw caution to the wind and move to America and work together? Whilst on holiday, would we visit Broadway and stumble along Fifth Avenue, hand in hand, smiling?
What followed instead was a week of awkward silences and avoiding the inevitable. As we tried to prolong our relationship over the holiday it became a week of pretence; a week of tearful conversations in the early mornings and in the late evenings, a week of pleading and bargaining, a week of arguing over the semantics between taking a break and breaking up. It was a week of pushing two miserable people together and slinging them over Manhattan and back across the Brooklyn Bridge, where we slept in the same bed but where continents could fill the spaces in between.
It was unbearably heartbreaking and so I fled the city like a coward.
As the plane took off and banked left I stared into Manhattan’s voluminous belly and wondered where my girlfriend might be found somewhere inside. But in the fleeting moments before the end I watched the city turn towards me, his gums bulging with skyscrapers, and he smiled and I understood.
She is not my girlfriend and I am not from New York.