My final night in New York. Hugging dearest friends goodbye, after dinner, emotional, buzzing from cocktails, unsure when I’ll see them again. We’re dotted all over the world these days.
I walk alone, across my six blocks, past the heart-achingly beautiful brownstones, playing one of the games I’ve invented since arriving here “which celebrity could live here”.
Arriving at my Chelsea apartment, situated on a third floor walk up above a Greek bar, I slide the key in the latch, then pause. In the corner of my eye, I catch a glimpse of the grand lady herself, the Empire State Building. She lights up bright for me every night, but in this moment I realise that in the time I’ve been at dinner, she’s changed from white to pink.
I glance at my phone – 11:16pm. Last admissions are at midnight. I can still make it.
After two weeks this city now runs through my veins. We are betrothed. My instincts lead me everywhere, striding the blocks, with confidence and swagger. Safe and at home. The guys in the Sicilian pizza shop downtown think I live here. We chat for ages. I never bother to correct them. Why ever would I?
Heading Uptown, passing cop cars, hot dog stands, steaming man hole covers , piles of trash bags and scurrying rats. Up ahead the unmistakable, pulsing red and blue glow of Times Square emblazon the landscape ten blocks ahead, like a wild fire. Every movie, every TV show, every cliche and every song you’ve seen and heard about this place is true. But better.
Hit a right, two blocks over, through Korea Town – 1,000 neon signs advertising phone repairs, manicures and karaoke – to 33rd St. And here I am. My pink lady. The rumours are true, there are no lines at midnight. Instead you walk and walk through endless trails of velvet rope, set amongst Art Deco majesty. Now you’re in the elevator. The doors close. Numbers whizzing past you: 2, 14, 34, 45, 67, your ears pop, 79, 86, 91, 100, 102.
And here I am. The top of my world.
A million lights below. Yellow cabs crawling like tiny beetles. Times Square all neon. You count the bridges. You tick off the landmarks – World Trade, Chrysler, the black void that’s Central Park.
Staring. Dreaming. Endless. Breathless. Heart pulsing. If I could scoop this city up in jacket, and carry it around with me forever, I would.
Jolted out of my haze by some giggling to my left. A couple, in their late 30’s. “It’s you, you’re really here! I can’t believe it!” They embrace and dance to their own imaginary beat. I’m suddenly aware that all around me are the Sleepless in Seattle couples. The newly engaged. The online matches who finally are together. Midnight at the top of Empire State – it’s not just my hours – it’s lovers’ hour.
I’m the only one alone here. But I don’t mind. It feels right and how it should be.
The city is my date tonight. Our own lovers’ hour.