Drinking the City
15 Minute Write
“ Let’s go up, it's raining “
You have to think hard, sometimes, about how things start - but the end? I remember that day clearly. It was the last day of our routine. It was the last day I saw her. Neither of us were New Yorkers, but we both felt like New Yorkers. This city did that to you when you fell under its spell. What a cliche that sounds - there is no magic, but the irony is that for us, there was.
I don’t remember how it started and why it feels, now, in retrospect that we always did this little ritual. Probably, in reality, we only did it a handful of times. Memory likes to make anecdotes and history from what we’ve done in the past and when that has an emotional connection, all the more so.
You know what? I just looked back in my journals of that time. Although I’m sure I didn’t write down every time we went up onto the roof, I can chart the duration of our ‘relationship’ or, I suppose more accurately, ‘our affair’. But ‘affair’ makes me think of middle-aged saddos ( like I am now ), not young, hungry twenty-somethings. And, in case you are wondering, it was all of 29 days. Not only that, but there, in my scrawled handwriting are enough words to help me recall the whole first time, suddenly everything just flooded back. What a strange thing the mind is.
“ You’ll like it, I promise, “ she said to me.
“ Sure “ I was already beguiled by her. She was different. She was fun. She seemed dangerous and likely to lead me into all sorts of trouble, but I was done with playing it safe. I was supposed to be leaving for home in a month and these last two months had been boring, I’d bored myself. How can you come to the greatest city on the planet and stay in your room in the evenings or at weekends because you have no friends?
“ Bring your cup “ She pointed to my ‘I heart’ NYC mug - the large one she used to laugh at, saying I had a quart-sized cup for an ounce-sized thirst. I never really understood whether that was an insult or not, but it made her laugh, and that was enough for me.
We climbed four sets of stairs. The building we worked in, red brick, old by New York standards was 9 stories. We were on the fourth. The final set of stairs were away from the main shaft and she had clearly been up here before as it was a well-hidden door and tight set of stairs we took to get us up onto the roof.
It was covered in what looked like lead but must have been some form of light grey pitch, all blistered and uneven and, in the rain, glistening with mirrors of puddles dotted around. The view was all New York and I think that first time was when I truly ‘became’ a New Yorker.
“Over here” she was at the edge of the building overlooking the street, a low ledge ran the entire circumference of the building with angled red terracotta tiles, glossy with the wet. There was a flat square tile at each corner and she stood in one of them looking directly at me.
“Put your cup here” She pointed to the flat tile and I followed her instruction. There was a little tea left in the bottom - these American teabags always split so I’d gotten into the annoying habit of not totally finishing my drink - something that used to irritate the shit out of me England. She looked into the cup.
“Yuck!” Seeing the residual cold tea she flung it over the side of the building and replaced the cup.
“ That’s better “
“ And now what? “ I asked.
“ Be patient “
She turned to face the city an,d as if by some automatic docking procedure or some unwritten law of rooftop etiquette, she reached out backwards towards me, blindly and I took her hand in mine.
We stood there silently, watching the rain, getting wet, feeling New York. There was a massive smile on her face, which in turn made me smile. It was the start, right there. After ten whole minutes ( I kid you not - the best in my entire life up until this point ) she reached to the mug and took a swig, then passed it to me
“ Drink! Drink New York. Become New York “
New York, November 201. Nikon d750
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