I remember my trip to New York in 2005. Over the winter months, I’d been emailing with a young writer from North Carolina (whom I shall call C), who’d recently lost his father. One evening, in a long email quoting Richard Siken, he invited me to meet him in New York and explore the city together. I didn’t need asking twice. I'd dreamed of New York since I was twelve, and in particular, The Chelsea Hotel, gorging myself on a teenage diet of The Velvets, Chelsea Girls, Dylan’s Sara and Cohen’s ode to Janis Joplin’s blowjob. Also, I was more than happy to flee my current love affair that I knew (my small heart temporarily crippled) was never going to work out.
Before I flew out, I emailed C to say I'd see him at five o' clock the next afternoon in the Museum of Modern Art, in front of a painting of St Anthony in the Wilderness. After arriving in the city I'd trudged, exhausted, up Fifth Avenue, my green fraying rucksack heavy on my shoulders. However when I reached the grand glass doors, security stopped me. No bags. So C and I met instead outside by the trashcans, a bird pendant swinging around his neck.
Other snap-shots remain fixed in my memory. I remember the morning I left Brighton - a taxi ride to Poole Valley bus station, my vision of early morning travellers and dark-glass windowed coaches blurred by sleep. I remember the feel of a warm hand on mine, a copy of James Joyce's Ulysses bluetoothed to my mobile. The goodbye was dream-like and beautiful, empty of substance.
Then I remember swooping down towards Newark airport, the Statue of Liberty dirty and unimpressive below me. The city seemed like a grey polluted stain, and the Hudson, a stream of drizzle spinning down a gutter. I remember falling asleep on a single bed (in a house with four giant poodles, where I was fed cream cheese bagels at midnight and we watched The Sopranos). C, no longer a boy, but not yet entirely a man, read O' Brien's The Third Policeman to me, images of Macruiskeen and old Mathers cycling into my dreams.
I also remember swinging, orangutan style, from scaffolding with C whilst we waited for a poet to emerge from a subway. C had talked much about him and held him in high esteem. We played footsie as a black curly shock of hair rose up into view from behind a metal railing. And then I remember driving through Boston at three in the morning, Lambchop on the car stereo, a house huge and ghostly, rearing up like a hallucination behind a white picket fence and neatly cut lawns.
I remember a kiss, like tango, or rather a desire for tango in an apartment near Central Park with huge white radiators. I recall the sound of the key in the lock and the clatter of a flatmate returning -- C and I, muted, still, frozen together, pressed together in the spare bedroom.
I remember turning a corner in the MOMO and facing Yves Klein's Blue canvas – a sudden dizziness – sky coursing my veins, invisible currents knocking me backwards towards the wall. No other art in the building did that to me and none has done that to me since.
And I remember standing in a rainstorm on my last night with that same poet who'd met us from the subway - his hair frizzy and glistening with pearls, yellow taxi cabs speeding past us. In a single moment I fell in love with the blackness of the storm, the glare of headlights and this thirty-year-old woman-chasing poet standing by my side - disarmed, hopeless, desperately trying to hail me a cab, squinting at me through rain-spattered spectacles.
The Daily Growl
The Daily Growl