Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Those Seen Dancing (excerpt)

The hotel is a pleasant but (relatively) inexpensive place on Manhattan Island itself, which does nothing to temper my overgrown sense of importance. I was supposed to stay at the house of an NYU lecturer called Dr Gawain Ellison, but he’s in hospital with some sort of acute bowel problem. Sickness befalls even these fairytale people, it seems. My room is on the fourth floor, and it affords a fine view of a street and some tall, grey-brown buildings; I’m immediately on the lookout for crazies, but there don’t seem to be any on display right now, just flights of homeward-bound professionals. I check my watch—it’s 6:13 pm Eastern Time.

I promised my sister Melanie that I’d call her on arrival, regardless of the time-difference, so I pick up the hotel phone and navigate my way to an outside line. Six rings pass before she answers.

“Evan? Is that you? Oh my God, how’s New York?”


“Sorry I didn’t answer quicker; I was so excited I fell asleep.”

“I understand.”

“How’s New York?”

“Well, so far it’s been an airport, a cab ride and a small hotel room,” I report, trying my best to sound blasé through an irrepressible grin.

Melanie sighs loudly down the line. “You’re such a magician with words; I almost feel like I’m there.”

“I’m probably over-selling it.”

“No doubt. So you haven’t seen any celebrities yet? Any famous landmarks? Violence in the streets?”

“I think they call it ‘street violence’ here, and no. Not close-up, anyway.”

“How long have you been there?”

“About an hour.”

She snorts. “Jesus, you’re such an under-achiever, even as a tourist.”

“It’s the secret of my success.”

A car horn yelps outside, but by the time I reach the window there’s nothing to see. “Drive-by?” Melanie asks, hopefully.

“You’re thinking of LA,” I pause, “or Moss Side.”

I have two sisters: Melanie and Suzanna. Melanie is The Good One—an ironic title bestowed upon her by our parents in light of various teenage misdemeanours. Minor stuff, really; hence the levity. Suffice it to say that she’s not of studious bent, particularly in comparison to her academically minded siblings. That might be part of the reason that everyone in the family likes her best.

“So what do you have planned for your first night in the Big Apple?”

I sit down on the single bed and leaf through the hotel’s hospitality materials. “Well, I was supposed to be getting wined and dined by the university guy—”

“You mean the one with the bowel problem? Dr Lancelot or something?"

“Dr Gawain.”

“Knights just aren’t what they used to be.”

“Yeah, drastic decline in the dragon population; knight life expectancy has gone way up.”

“Nightlife expectancy?”

“That too.”

“You know what you should do? You should go and find a sleazy New York bar and pick up a hot New York chick, one of those skinny ones with the T-shirts that have messages on them. A rock musician or something.”

“Yeah, sounds pretty tolerable.”

“I mean, that must be the easiest thing in the world for an exotic, foreign poet like yourself.”


“And bring me back some Jimmy Choos.”

“Those are shoes, right?”

She snorts. “That city is wasted on you.”

No comments: