Never in my entire life had I felt my heartbeat in my tongue.
The taxi driver swerved sharply and then jumped on the brakes, stopping us a hairs breadth away from the car in front.
We’ll just pretend I didn’t make that very British squeak of fear, shall we?
As we shoved our way from block to block, a cacophony of car horns echoed behind us, the more-than-vocal New York traffic.
* * *
It was our first venture out of the hotel. We were smothered by a blanket of warm air that wrapped itself around us with a loving welcome, and a greeting from locals of cold indifference and irritated sighs.
The Big Apple was…big. Good lordy it was big. I had never seen buildings so tall, traffic lights so high, billboards so broad!
We were all tired and jet lagged and stumbling through the city like drunken ants, trying to navigate our way to Central Park for a lie down in the sun. However, along the way, we found 42nd street. For those of you who have been there, you know as well as I do that there’s no casual walking past 42nd street. We were sucked in like countless others before us, deafened by street sellers and street walkers, speakers and stall vendors. Until…BOOM. We were in Times Square.
Let me just repeat that: I was in Times Square. I was actually IN Times Square. I could really see those giant adverts on those sizzling famous screens. I was truly being jostled by crowds with camera lenses glued to their eyes. There really was a guy on stilts walking towards me, dressed in drag as the Statue of Liberty.
– Wait, what?
This was it; this was really it. New York. Me. In New York.
We posed for the camera along with the rest of the tourists. We pointed out the Disney shop and M&M World, and Hersheys. We nearly got ran over by cars and pooped on by horses. By the time we burst free from the Square at the other end, we were exhausted. We looked back at the dazzling black hole of brilliance, and backed slowly away. Maybe we’d try again another time.
Twenty minutes later and you’d find us in the middle of a busy roundabout decked out with a water fountain and monument. The spray from the water was cool on our cheeks and from the foot of the colossus we could see straight down every road around. Sky scrapers, executive buildings, apartments, for as far as the eye could reach. And each road one straight shot into the distance. It was like nothing we’d seen before.
Central Park was like an oasis. It was the first green we’d seen all day, the first shade we’d fanned ourselves in. We walked and walked and walked, until we found a wooden hut at the side of a lake, where we settled down and drank in the surroundings. A beautiful cream coloured bridge soured over the lake opposite us, starkly set out against the dense foliage behind it. A weeping willow sobbed it’s leafy tears into the water that lapped against the side of blue rowing boats, carrying couples and families making leisurely ineffective scooping motions with clumsy wooden oars. A sandy tower stood proudly above the treeline, dominant and yet shy at the same time, merging into the light of the sun.
I looked down and saw a turtle bobbing along, just a few feet in front of me. A strange little creature with a crusted brown shell and reptilian neck, striped and aged, it seemed weary as it ducked into the depths to resurface moments later. It was an old man, enacting the age old routine of living.
We didn’t move from that spot, not for a long time. We watched and listened and became the background to peoples’ lives. A man on the path by the trees played the drums and a little girl climbed up on the bench next to him and slapped on a tambourine, playing along and laughing.
It was beautiful here.
As if in affirmation, a soft pulse in my tongue started up once more.
Beautiful New York.