18:14, 15th of February, 2019: Day after St. Valentine’s Day. The saint associated with love. He was a martyr, beheaded for helping couples wed wasn’t he?
One of life’s lessons: don’t lose your head over love.
I’m in a large corner convenience store, it’s crowded, noisy and chaotic with the din of people buying shit they really don’t need at obscene prices they’d balk at anywhere else but after a hard day at work reminding themselves this job is only until something better comes along and knowing there’s something better around the corner, even though there’s probably not, and not wanting to remind themselves that this is not how they ever thought it would turn out, they probably need that Coke Lite, pack of cigarettes or Snickers bar.
Red Bull gives you wings!
Outside the traffic is bumper-to-bumper, the sidewalks are packed with shoppers, pedestrian commuters and the sporadic beggar all punctuated with the occasional siren. Not the proper British sirens but those irritating American screaming, screechy kind that snap you out of your comfort zone and remind you some poor bastard’s about to have a much worse day than you did.
- Yeah, one hundred and twenty-seven, no twenty-eight. That’s how many people passing by I’ve counted in the last fifteen minutes with their faces buried in their mobile phones. ‘Cells’ if you’re American. Cells like in a prison.
Outside a pair of tourists wrestling with a map pass the big picture window for the third time going in the opposite direction.
A Caucasian Rastafarian stumbles into the place, ducks past security and nicks a croissant from the display rack. I recognise him from the time I looked up ‘wasted’ in the dictionary. There was a picture of him there. Any more drugged up he’d be unconscious. He suddenly decides he has a beef with his pastry and starts pounding hell out of it beating it into the table and loudly cursing it. The four foot tall, Nigerian security guy in the bad suit approaches and tells the six foot plus human train wreck to cool it. They stare each other down. My money’s on the little Nigerian. Suddenly it happens: Rasta man’s girlfriend flouses through the door, bear hugs him, starts crying and apologies to him. They kiss. Cue music, FADE SCENE: ROLL CREDITS.
Scenes like this remind me why people believe in gods and goddesses. For most this existence is so non-productive, so mundane, so meaningless otherwise, without the illusion of something after this they’d do a Hemingway and blow their brains out. But, no criticism. Whatever gets you through the day, or the night.
After 37 years of travel, living in a half a dozen countries with a dozen cultures, I finally realise I’m here.
Then it occurs to me, this is as close as I’ll ever come to New York City again. 3,000 miles away. But being here, 4,860 kilometres away from there, the place I’d always considered ‘home’ for nearly the first half of my life, has shown me when you finally kiss mom and dad good-bye for the final time, you’re never really ever ‘home’ again. You’re just working to find a better place to live.
Something else occurred to me as I sit here banging away on my ninth novel: I got what I asked for. I got exactly what I asked for. I bought the ticket and am taking the ride. Regardless of all the negative shit I and others have put me through, I am exactly where I want to be at this moment in time and in the immortal words of that Queen of homemaking and Mistress of tax evasion, Martha Stewart; “That’s a good thing!”
p.s. – Rasta man was finally escorted out by the cops.