Two days in and I have a hangover and an almighty and very sincere desire to go back to London. The weather doesn't help; all coldy and windy and not at all the sunny that I understand London'll be this weekend, so that's fun.
Anyway, I'm not at work, I'm on a holiday in another country - yet I'm still complaining.
So I get off the plane and head to this bar I'd been to last year, near my Ladyfriend's apartment, awaiting her arrival from her workplace. I am quite probably the happiest I will ever be in my entire fucking life.
Wednesday: New York. This bar I know. I'm in a nice seat with view of front door, waiting for Ladyfriend. Very excited. Slight anticipation of exciting break ahead. I wait for two pints when Ladyfriend arrives on purchase of my third. She looks lovely, just as she always is but seem to forget with the passing of time. But she's here; her cute smile, her button nose, her dimples, her curly brown hair, her hugs, her little squeaks when she's happy. Ok, she's not completely happy as she's just finished a day's work and seems quite stressed. We have that long hello hug and I don't want to let go but it's all good because I'm so very very happy and cheerful and Life and Humanity are beautiful and wonderful and it's simply incredible to be alive and I love Everything and Everyone!!!!!
This is called juxtaposition, for I am now going to relate the circumstances which lead me to believe the exact opposite; that Life is a cruel cosmic accident, a quirk of fate where we are nought but a bunch of cunts fucking over another bunch of cunts in a Godless random universe, only to die in a loveless pit of hate, anger, apathy and Paris Hilton.
We leave the bar and head for my Ladyfriend's apartment. I am smiling so much that my head hurts. I meet Ladyfriend's Petite Pretty Flatmate and we order Korean food which I've never had before. My slightly offensive remarks about us eating Lassie are largely ignored. Note that Ladyfriend seems slightly defensive and angry. Turns out she needs a while to switch off after work, something I've never seen in her as our long distance dating hadn't ever clashed with her work schedule before.
I eventually share a bed with a clearly irritated Ladyfriend, an irritation I don't appreciate as I continue to prod her as I ask her cheerfully to 'Cheer Up'. Lying there under the covers of her bed that first night, a scenario that was undertaken in a functional Germanic manner (walk to room seperately, remove clothes, enter bed, wait), I soon feel like the Unsexiest Man In The Known Universe. I am in bed with a beautiful woman and she isn't in the least bit interested. Work is on her mind, my arrival hasn't been met with outpourings of joy or any sex, and I realise that I am incapable of being mature. I try not to think that a year after our last intimacy, Ladyfriend seems almost angry.
We both fall asleep. I am apparently snoring violently (like 'Two lions fucking', as Nothing Man often remarks), and make the situation worse by (apparently) waking up frequently during the night and asking 'Was I snoring? Sorry.'
Thursday: Both ladies leave for work. I am in New York!!! I look out of the window at Avenue A; yellow cabs, commuters, skyscrapers. Also, angry grey clouds, umbrellas, and lots and lots of rain.
I venture out in the vague direction of Union Square. By the time I get there, my shoes are letting in water so I buy some new size 14s to wear immediately. More walking. I pass a diner and nip in for a large smoked salmon and cream cheese beigel. (Note, that's Beigel, not BAGEL, dammit.) I am soaked through and the rain outside is still relentless. I wait for the weather to calm down and hit the streets again. The grid system really is quite ingenious - I'm walking down roads I've never been down in my life but I instinctively know where I'll be if I turn left or right. I am heading towards Madison Square Gardens to meet a local guy, Jeff, who I last met in London a few years ago. My old Uni mate Sean introduced me to Jeff, who happened to be in the UK during Yom Kippur or Pesach or something else Jewish. Jeff pleaded with me to take him to Temple in the UK (a synagogue, not the London district), and I pleaded with him not to make me. In the end, I was forced to ruin my Friday night by taking Jeff to see the winner of Britain's Most Boring Rabbi competition while a frosty looking battleaxe in the row behind gave me filthy looks because I was wearing jeans.
When I'd turned to whisper to Jeff 'Thanks for getting me to drag you here', I was thrilled to find him fast asleep. I ensured he stayed awake to continue enjoying the sermon.
So I turn up at Jeff's office about two hours after emailing him to say 'Hello mate, I'm in New York'. We go for a couple of drinks, and reminisce over old times, essentially that night at the Shul. After bidding each other farewell, I head back to the apartment via the L train as Ladyfriend had forgotten her keys and I had to be back to let her in. Before long, her Petite Pretty Flatmate had arrived home and we're all eating Sushi. We all get ready as Petite Pretty Flatmate will be leaving the city for a few months so we're off to a nearby bar to meet up with a whole host of other people, people who are either Shrieky Happy American Girls or else Clapfabulous Gay Men.
Ladyfriend is getting ready so Petite Pretty Flatmate and Shrieky Happy American Twins and I head to the bar. Petite Pretty Flatmate hasn't seen a Shrieky Happy American Twin for something like a whole week so I watch in amusement as they begin hyperventilating as their chatting becomes more frantic and kinetic. Words such as 'Neat', 'Shut Up', and even 'Awesome' are all used completely without irony and, just as the pitch of their conversation was reaching the troposphere and the only other life form that would be able to hear would be covered with fur and have a wagging tail at one end, I lose all interest in living. Their relentless white noise begins to merge with the background music and I enter a frame of mind I normally only get at work - the one where all I hear in my head is the Laurel and Hardy theme tune.
Time passes. I'm tired, genuinely too tired, to socialise. I want to sit when everyone else is standing and scooting from one group of people they all know to another. I feel like an English duck in another pond full of other friendly ducks with a slightly different quack. Ladyfriend occasionally beckons me over to a group where I say hello and then have nothing else to say for myself. It was tiring having to speak in a Hugh Grant accent all evening when my regular accent, although not gratingly cockney, is mumbly and London enough to render all my punchlines, questions, and interesting bon mots almost inaudible - the net result being a reluctance to have any conversations. It can get very tiring speaking to someone, asking them questions, or else giving them your best A-material and getting an earnest poker face in return, the International look for not understanding what the fuck you just said, yet too polite to ask 'Can you repeat that a bit more slowly please?'
I drink some more despite not wanting to. I even have a soft drink to be a little different. Ladyfriend unwillingly drags me into conversations with people who've known each other for years, allowing me to ruin their banter and atmosphere for them. Others begin to leave. The remaining group gets progressively drunker. Whole bar seems to thin out. Group now consists of my on-off long distance Ladyfriend, a camp, non-threatening gay man, his loud nerd friend, and a cocky bloke who I'm not too sure about. In fact, the only guy I'm comfortable around is the gay man, seeing as the nerdy guy keeps giving Ladyfriend massages and having big, big laughs with her while I sit there largely mute and feeling like I've had a major personality bypass. The cocky guy looks slightly cool and, I suspect, has almost certainly had Lots More Sex Than Me and left a trail of broken women in his wake.
As everyone sits there shouting out in-jokes and cracking lines that makes everyone roar (including an enormous bellow from Ladyfriend that I'm devastated to hear as I've never made her do that), I am forced to contribute occasional 'Ha-ha!'s then returning to being mute and shifting awkwardly as no-one really wants to talk to me and I don't want to talk to them.
In fact, as I am typing this, I realise why I was at such a loose end. Sure, sitting like a Nobby No-Mates in the corner for most of the evening probably didn't endear me to the other guests, but it was also the fact that no-one knew who I was or why I was there that probably did it. I had no raison d'etre, no real justification for being there. I was just this shy Brit who was somehow connected to someone at that bar, and was harder to shake off than herpes.
But what really did it for me, the cake/ icing integer that made me want to run home to Mummy was an innocuous comment. I had become detached once again, both physically and mentally, and overheard the cocky guy ask Ladyfriend, to an audience of the other guys, 'So, what's the deal with you and other men? Anything happening?'
My shoulders sunk and I thought 'Erm, yes, I'm right here. I'm the fucking idiot who's travelled 4,000 miles and I'm not sure why.' I had my back to them when this was said, and I've no idea what happened in the awkward silence that followed, whether or not Ladyfriend pointed me out, or if she did a happy little 'Single' jig instead. Whatever it was, I really felt justified in feeling out of place, and I wanted to leave immediately.
We did so soon afterwards, although the guys were keen to keep drinking. They asked me where I was staying, so I pointed at Ladyfriend and said 'I'm on her couch.'
I quite liked the couch touch. Saying 'I'm sharing her bed' would've sounded quite odd in light of us saying next to nothing to each other all night. Plus I still don't know what reply she gave to the 'Any men?' comment. The 'couch' gave us some strange dignity, I felt.
We get back to the apartment. I was stroppy but wanted to be convivial; I was in no mood for an argument. Plus I was to be cooking a large roast meal the next evening initially for Ladyfriend and myself, but now with Petite Pretty Flatmate and two other Shrieky Happy American Girls. I kept things light because I didn't want to make the impending meal socially awkward. Nonetheless, Ladyfriend and I prepared for bed in silence. I returned from the bathroom to find her under the covers, so I switched the light off and gingerly lay down next to her. I didn't bother getting under with her. Instead, I just sighed. Still determined to keep things pleasant, I reached over for Ladyfriend's arm and gave her a little stroke.
'Night', I said.
This wasn't a proposition for sex, it was a 'Goodnight', plain and simple. She didn't reply.
I lay there and thought about my situation for a minute or two, then made my decision. Reaching behind my head for the pillow, I very quietly crept out of the bedroom and headed for the living room, where I grabbed my coat. This was to be my blanket for the night.
I slept on her couch after all.