Looking Back, Horrified, At What Might’ve Been… (or how I learned to be a coward)

Yes, yes, so fucking shoot me, it’s been like two weeks since my last post. I’m sure all THREE of my followers (assuming you haven’t abandoned me yet) have been dying for a post. Well here it is. It’s not even original content; it’s dregs from months ago. It’s a short piece about my time in New York City. It has no ending because it was originally supposed to be the start of my epic masterpiece, Adam Watts and the Seven Naked Hobos, and I’ve never tidied it up.

Before you enjoy, I should point out there is some sexual content. And not the good kind. Frankly, it’s grim. While you read and wince, feel free to pity me because it’s all based in truth. Every last word.  And just so she’s under no illusions and because I want to sound like the meanest bastard cunt in all the Seven Kingdoms, the lady I refer to goes by the name of Suzanne. Thanks for the memories my love, they’re seared into my head for all eternity.

Read, enjoy. Or click elsewhere halfway down the page when you realise there’s no freaking pictures and you still have 500 words to go. Whatever.


As I stepped off the Chinese express bus in New York City, I knew I was in heaven; the air was as cold as my love for the girl waiting for me back home in England, three thousand miles away. The Manhattan faces were grey and silent as London’s, tourists, commuters and house-wives and -husbands alike. The only smile I saw in my first two hours was plastered to a mad vagrant who found a nickel stuck to a wall. I watched as he peeled the coin away from the gum, put it in his pocket and wandered on.

On one street I saw an old man, thin as a twig, collapse in a heap clutching his heart. A suit and tie guy with phone at his ear, sensing something, looked backward, saw the old man lying there dying, and walked on.

At an intersection a woman in a disability scooter was crossing at the Walk sign. A 4×4 was turning right, bearing down on her. She was going ever so slow, painfully slow. The driver was patient, miming along to a song in the radio, but he was inching forward. The woman was barely a quarter across. The driver still smiled, nodding at the woman, sure, you’re disabled, I understand, I’m being patient. Yet still he inched forward. The woman was expressionless, which was sad in itself. She was used to this. She didn’t once glance at the metal beast approaching her. A few onlookers, like myself, cast a few looks. Only surreptitious looks, mind. No stranger would ever speak to her. I thought she must have been the loneliest person in the world.

I wanted to go up to her and have a friendly conversation and tell her that somebody cared about her. I wanted to sit and have a hot chocolate (I hated coffee) in a Starbucks with her. I wanted to make her smile. I wanted her to tell me she was really freaking happy with her life.

But I didn’t. I wouldn’t. I couldn’t. I’d like to say society had conditioned me to live only in my own existence, but actually I was just timid as a child victim of domestic abuse on show and tell day in school. And really, I didn’t want to talk to her. I came to this city for time to reflect. One might argue I should’ve gone to a Buddhist temple in the Himalayas and reflected over tea and biscuits with a wise old sage, but there was something about noise pollution and overpricing that I found strangely peaceful.

This was a city no one was going to bother me in.

I had travelled on the overnight Chinese bus from Charlotte, North Carolina. I’d been sitting in a window seat next to an Asian guy with a nervous tic. We didn’t say a word to each other. I’m not sure he spoke a word of English anyway. Sleep wasn’t something that happened, much to my disappointment and to the probable ruination of plans for my stay in New York City. I needed to catch up on that sleep. As it turned out, catching up on sleep was something I needed to do often in this journey.

The bus came into Manhattan at dawn, the sun rising between two skyscrapers to shine off a sea of gleaming car park metal as I woke from what felt like two minutes of recharge time. I would like to say the city won me over then, as the bus squeezed its way into the midst of these giant iconic buildings, but in all honesty I was groggy and cramped and it felt like just another big city and the Asian guy’s nervous tic was…sit still, for fuck’s sake. I suppose I should have been thankful he didn’t smell. I had, and still have, a wonderful habit of sitting next to people on public transport who neglected personal hygiene. Perhaps that’s my fault for being a stingy bastard. Presumably people who fly first or business class in planes are afflicted only by the stench of success and self-importance, whatever they smell like; Clive Christian fragrances, I suppose, whoever he is.

I thought of the girl who called herself my girlfriend across the ocean. I thought about how much she’d have enjoyed spending a few days trawling through all the world-famous department stores, trying on every pair of shoes and every sparkly dress. I thought about how much she would have loved sitting in a snazzy restaurant with me sharing a bottle of wine. I thought about how much she would be missing me. A sense of glee overwhelmed me and I grinned as I rested my head against the window. Then we hit a bump and I hit my head and then I scowled.

I should explain. We’d been dating four months by the time I left for my trip, and every time I was forced to spend time in her company I dreamed about what it was like before we’d met. That happy time, that time of freedom. It seemed like such a long time ago. On the morning I left to go to the airport she said, “Oh Chirpy, I wish I was coming with you, can’t you just stay one more day?” It was awful. My flight had been at three p.m., the airport had been a forty-minute bus ride away, but I’d told her my flight was at nine-thirty that morning just so I could have some time to myself sitting alone in the duty free.

I should explain further. We were only together because I felt sorry for her – ugly and fat and so self-conscious she could barely walk straight – and also because me, in my nineteen year old forever alone state, thought I should lose my virginity sooner rather than later. It was amazing what a guy would put himself through for a quick play in the lady hole. Four months in and we still hadn’t had sex.

I first met her through mutual friends. I sensed a chance and took her number. The next afternoon she phoned me asking if I wanted to go to a night out at her uni that night. It seemed almost too easy. I went to that night, we drank and drank until she put her tongue in my mouth and we undertook an intense make-out session in a hallway. I spent the night fumbling around with clothes on in the dark at her place. It was grim, but it turned me on. Mind you, the sight of an old woman’s sagging flesh at a swimming pool would probably have been enough to get me off back then.

After three months of scruffy awkward foreplay that fourteen year olds would mock, I started to realise that I was growing ever more repulsed with every new fold of flesh I uncovered. Then, one day, after I realised I was beginning to feel physically sick in her company, I made plans to leave. She was still my girlfriend that morning when I woke up in Manhattan, three thousand miles away from her, and she was, I hoped, tearing herself up over my absence.

When I got off the bus and had retrieved my rucksack from its belly I headed north in the direction of Central Park. I quickly realised that New York was a bigger city than I’d suspected, or at least I had underestimated just how far I could walk with my world on my back, so I was forced to take the subway. It was much like London’s Tube – hostile but efficient – and I soon found myself sitting on a rock on a hill in Central Park.

A man sat with his son on his knee a little way in front of me, pointing out over the trees and at the buildings. I was too far away to hear but I imagine him saying, “One day you’ll work in there, kid. Maybe you’ll even fire someone standing at that very window. You’ll make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year and live any life you please, and I’ll be proud of you.” The child turned to look at his father and, in profile, I saw him smile a child’s smile. Saying that, it might not have been the man’s son. It might have been a kid he was grooming. Who knows?

I do hope, in writing this, I’m not coming across as too cynical and mean-spirited. I’m young and naïve and I’m writing this journal in the hopes I’ll be mentioned in the same breath as Kerouac and Steinbeck, Theroux and Thoreau. Irrational, insane hopes of course, but hopes nonetheless.


Apparently if you end with a question people might feel a need to comment. I’ll try it.

So…who wants to offer me sympathy sex? Anyone? Hello?

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