I am now the other side of the Atlantic and back home in The Smoke, the Rotten Apple, my wretched hive of scum and villainy, and I've already forced myself through my first day's post-holiday work. New York has now been consigned to memory - I didn't even take any pictures - and in my vaguely rose-tinted way, I guess it wasn't so bad.
Albeit with a crap journey home.
Ladyfriend returned from work in a somewhat contemplative mood. I was sitting on her couch, my old friend and bed, and watching the Weakest Link UK - American TV is that bad. I too was lost in thought, reflecting on the past week and slightly curious as to how the last hour would play out.
My friend walked into the kitchen and squeaked; I'd bought her a dozen red roses and felt gratified that they'd had the desired effect, although on following her in there I noticed she looked rather awkward. Apparently the vase I'd found in her room and stuck the flowers in was a unique $200 ornament, and not actually a waterproof receptacle for cheap gestures.
We sat back on the couch and sighed. If she wanted me to get the hell out, her wish was about to be granted. For once though, Ladyfriend looked vaguely mindful and despondent, and my whole trip began to feel less like a sham. Deep down, we knew that we would never see each other again.
I kissed Ladyfriend and we talked a little. I looked out of the window and frowned. I kissed her again. We stared at each other. We frowned in unison. Then I kissed her for the last time and left New York for good.
Goodbyes are bad at the best of times, but they're particularly poignant when you know they're final.
My seat on the plane to fucking Frankfurt was in the middle of the middle row, frum Orthodox Jews to my left, and a pudgy young man spilling over the armrests to my immediate right. The guy told me he was a American Military Policeman returning to his base in Germany. He went on to say how many German girls he'd fucked.
'How?' I asked, perhaps slightly too incredulously.
'They want a fuckin' Green Card, dude.'
Well that explained a lot. It certainly wasn't physical attraction or charm.
He went on to say that despite working for the military, he was proud to have chased a car full of drunk civilian girls down an autobahn at 200kph where he sideswiped the vehicle so it flipped over and hospitalised the occupants.
All that, and we hadn't even taken off yet. In fact, as he was describing the flip with hand gestures and loud sound effects, I vividly recall thinking 'When are we going to start up and leave the fucking gate?'
Time passed painfully slowly long before we were airborne. The Orthodox Jews were unhappy with their seating and were protesting loudly, causing the stewardess to lose her temper and tell them to either accept their assigned seats or leave the plane. Then the Most Homosexual Steward I Have Ever Seen (and there's a few) flashed me a look and rolled his eyes, meaning that I was now impassively siding with the Germans against the Jews. As I sat there thinking 'Oh please, please, please stop causing a fuss; you're making all the racists racister', I felt overwhelmed with the desire to fly first class just once. Even Rambo sitting next to me had.
'Man, as soon as they find out I'm military, whoosh, I'm bumped up.'
Really? Well try getting bumped on Emirates, mate.
It was the worst Cattle Class I'd ever experienced. My knees were already flush against the chair in front long before Mrs 'I want a different seat' reclined it, and there was some strange rectangular fixture against where my right leg wanted to stretch a bit. When it came to dinner, I wasn't even able to put the fork to my mouth and had to ask the lady in front to put the seat back up just so I could eat my reheated chicken rectangle.
Towards the end of the journey, I got a jab in my ribs. I turned to see GI Joe scowling over my shoulder. If he had a gun on his hip, his hand would be hovering over it. I followed his gaze and saw one of the Orthodox Jews wrapping a thick leather strap around his arm. Granted, it looks to the uninitiated like a fancy tourniquet for fashion conscious heroin addicts, so I turned to my one-dimensional new friend and explained very slowly.
'It's tefillin. There are small scrolls in the boxes attached to the straps. It's symbolic', I said, 'something to do with physically binding the words to you.'
He mumbled something unnecessarily ignorant about an Ass whooping as the frummers rocked back and forth as they prayed. So there's me, sitting next to Rudolph Hess whilst being reminded of my own mortality by the devout as we roared a mile above the ocean squashed into a weighty metal tube.
By the time we landed in Germany, my new friend had affixed his US Military Police badge to the chair in front so everyone else knew we were in the presence of greatness. Mind you, this was probably a good thing as he had earlier been yelling that he'd taken his gun onto the plane with him - he's allowed to do things like that, I was frequently reminded, and he'd been to Iraq where he 'killed me a whole bunch of people.'
He seemed to take the taking of human life in his stride, leading me to surmise that he's either gatecrashed common human decency, or else he was just a fucking LIAR who assumes that people are impressed by repugnant ignorance and a sense of smug superiority based on who has the bigger gun and barks the loudest.
Frankfurt: Had a cigarette. Noticed the airport staff were a lot quieter and more efficient than their yelling counterparts at Newark, who seemed more interested in yelling one-liners over the heads of the mute would-be travellers. Board my final plane, land in Heathrow, am picked up by my Dad who I unashamedly squeeze the life out of when I see him.
My stomping ground: Catch up with Large Northern Flatmate who is greatly entertained by The Love Affair That Wasn't. Walk to my local supermarket in a jet-lagged funk to grab something for dinner. Some boozed up teenage chav tries to start a fight with the security guard, screaming at him in a faux-Jamaican accent and behaving like a useless little shit tip whose biggest achievement in his wasted pot noodle of a life will be not backing down during this argument. He leaves after throwing a basket on the floor and kissing his teeth. I walk home and see a police van hurtle past and stop at the supermarket which amuses me greatly, as the chav had moved on twenty minutes ago to no doubt threaten a pensioner with slang.
Today, I go back to work and sense the need to GET A BETTER JOB. I have two pleasant email exchanges with Ladyfriend, but a moratorium is declared and she no longer replies.
We are totally through. I feel a sense of loss, and feel lost.
A brief respite then, but back to Square One. Why are the little things so hard?