I can hear the sound of someone in the shower. I have just regained consciousness and find myself lying on a couch in New York, but hopefully not for much longer (sofa and the city.) Right at that moment, I want to be in my t-shirt and shorts and in London, surrounded by my friends and relating the whole sorry story to them with a smile finally on my face. And in 25 degree heat. I don't want to be here, living this nonsense, and in the rain. It would appear that my customary bad luck has fucked with the weather too.
My American Ladyfriend has appeared from the bathroom and is sitting next to my couch/bed on an adjacent chair while I squirm and feel hungover. She doesn't say anything for some time which makes me think I'm in a Hell Hath No Fury Scorned Woman Mindgame until she places a little note next to me, something she'd been writing with the world's quietest pen.
The upshot of the note was; Sorry for being distant, and apologies if I was expecting fun and sex, but in the year it's taken for her to move on, she thinks it best if we remain friends.
I was expecting sex? How very dare she! What kind of Neanderthal, unreconstructed man does she think I am? Me? Travel 4,000 miles for sex with a female friend?
Petite Pretty Flatmate appears. She is bright-eyed, loud, and psychotically cheerful, with perfect teeth. Deep down I know she despises me, this messed-up Limey who's appeared from nowhere and is now on her couch and fucking with her roomie's mind - again - this same guy she'd heard about a year ago, a supposed Mr Right who wasn't interested, who for some reason is now, inexplicably, back, and taking up a lot of space.
It was almost exactly a year ago that I was last in New York. I had flown over to see my Ladyfriend as a few weeks earlier, she had flown in to London to see me. She was the one who took charge and came over first, as I'm a coward.
We'd met online. I hate admitting that I've met anyone online; girlfriends, other bloggers, even old schoolfriends I've lost contact with. It's seems to me to be UberNerdery of the highest order, an admission of a personality defect and an inability to make friends or meet partners in the real world, so you have to rely on computers and chatrooms and the cloak of anonymity. It just seems so contrived and mechanical, a boon for people with zero personality or luck.
Which is perhaps why I was trying it out.
I've been online dating for years - at least, my profile exists out there in the ether and from time to time, I'll 'pop in' to see what's shakin'.
Anyhow, one Friday evening, I was on said dating site when I noticed I'd been checked out my an American lady. Normally I'd ignore anyone outside my own city let alone my own country as, well, what's the point? The flights, the pre-arranged dates that last an intense week only to stop until another flight is booked? The yearning, the cultural differences, the effort.
But she was cute.
So I checked her profile.
Then she came online and we 'chatted'.
She could spell. I like that. Spelling is important. And not only did she get me and my cultural references, but she wrote very wittily. Intelligence in a woman is vital and at the top of my list, before Caring and Funny, but after Stunning, Not Mental, and obviously, Not Picky When It Comes To Men.
We wrote to each other considerably that night, long enough for me to consume all the booze I'd had from friends' visits to some of the worst alcohol-producing countries on Earth. So it seemed logical for us to swap phone numbers and continue orally. Personally, I was amazed I could speak clearly but something seems to have worked as my new Ladyfriend had decided to grab the bull by the horns, booking a flight and a hotel in London.
And it was a great evening; a meeting in the exclusive bar, getting along famously, kissing, retiring to her room, barely leaving for two days.
Then I paid my first visit to New York. Ladyfriend returned for her second and then third visit to London, this time at my flat, when the ball was firmly in my court to go back to the States again.
But I was getting concerned. For one thing, I was skint as per usual and I still owed friends - Ladyfriend included - money from my first trip, and being in debt to them all embarrassed me.
Secondly, Ladyfriend was getting emotionally involved in a situation I was annoyed about being unable to afford. I wanted to see her all the time, but 4,000 miles was beginning to make things awkward for us. Ladyfriend also made no secret of her depths of feeling for me which, as a man, made me shift uneasily. I'm not a heartless, emotionless bastard as I had tears in my eyes at Heathrow when she told me she loved me and left London for the last time, but she told me she loved me.
I had incredible strong feelings for her, but how do we continue seeing each other? I can't even afford to turn up at her apartment. Interestingly, all my female advisers, including my Mum, said 'Go to her', 'Stay with her'. All my male friends simply asked 'How's this all gonna work, then?'
So I ended it. I told her that it wasn't her, she was perfect, but I was trying to be logical and I couldn't see how we could keep this up. Ladyfriend couldn't understand what logic had to do with love. I couldn't make her see that love has yet to melt the heart of the US Department of Homeland Security, so best to call it quits now.
We tried to stay in touch, but Ladyfriend was having a very bad time of it all. When I called, she held it together for so long, then broke down and told me not to call back until she felt better. I wanted her to meet a decent local American chap immediately, provided A) He was The One and B) I didn't get to hear any details barring her finally being happy and content. But she didn't. Instead, she came back to London over Christmas and paid me a brief, emotional visit. I missed her like hell and we hugged and kissed and then she left as quickly as she arrived. Unfortunately, she had been visiting with her current boyfriend whom she'd told she was going shopping when in fact she came over to see me.
She now had tremendous guilt as I was unwittingly making her do things preposterously out of character. For my part, I realised I wanted to go back to New York to be with her again.
So here I am, 10:30am in the morning, indoors and avoiding the apocalyptically dark skies and relentless rain of New York while the internet tells me that Britain is right this minute basking in unseasonably hot summer-like temperatures.
The cruel, cruel irony.
Ladyfriend goes to work that morning, while I sit in the empty flat and think 'That's it, I'm going home.' I attempt to get my return flights brought forward - both of them.
No I can't.
I decide to get a hotel for the rest of my stay.
I can if I want to spend my entire budget and more on said hotel and presumably spend the remaining few days unable to do anything.
I don't even want to call Jeff and ask him to put me up. That would be really low.
The phone keeps ringing. I know it is Ladyfriend, now at work, and I ignore it. On her third attempt, I answer. I don't want to be here anymore, I tell her. I don't know why I'm here, and I feel very, very stupid and humiliated. I am certainly not cooking that damn roast and I want to go home.
But I know she's at work - she gets very stressed at work - and, after all, I am on holiday.
'Why don't you go for a walk and clear your head?' she says.
A brilliant suggestion. I don't know where to go so I decide to just wander aimlessly and see where I end up.
I cross roads and intersections, careful to concentrate on looking the other way for traffic, against my natural instinct. I pass cheerful hobos, tourists, laughing guys from New Jersey with thick nasal accents. Every dog being walked seems to have a little coat on.
The weather's cold but the streets look familiar and the city doesn't faze me. It is London with few differences, and I feel very used to it here. I cross Broadway and weave through the other pedestrians. I jaywalk and smoke and look and listen. I soon find myself some distance away from the rigid blocks of most of Manhattan and suddenly I am walking around small little streets with roads that are no longer straight, and they actually have names, real names, and not numbers like Sixth Avenue or 38th street.
I realise I am near Ladyfriend's workplace so I find a payphone and she's happy for me to visit. When I get there, she's ok. Not angry. Just the person I came over to see. With a hangover. I kiss her goodbye and head back to the apartment. All my plans about visiting the Guggenheim, the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, all gone. In my state of mind, I wasn't in the mood. That night, the apartment was full of girls who got a Chinese as I hadn't made that roast. Wanting to keep my distance but unable to, I went into Ladyfriend's room and fell asleep. Ladyfriend woke me up later, with a cookie and a kiss.
Some time after that, in the 2am stillness, I crept out of her room and went back to the couch.
Things were better on Saturday. Petite Pretty Flatmate had left for an assignment in Miami, and Ladyfriend had thawed. We were hugging now, holding hands when we walked and, finally, last night we went out for a nice meal together, something I wanted to do from Day One.
I fly home tomorrow night. I can't believe I booked four flights in total just so I could save thirty fucking pounds. My return goes via Frankfurt, Frankfurt! I will be flying over and past London, staying in the air for a few more hours, landing in Germany, then getting on a new plane and going back in the opposite direction.
I have no shame in admitting that I'm an idiot.