The creak and rumble of an elevator descending, voices growing more faint, the clatter and clang as it hit ground floor. Then silence.
I was alone in New York, sole occupant of a dimly lit and luxurious apartment. I stood there, excited and scared. Tomorrow would be the real thing; and the day after that, the day after that…
Days before we’d driven from Washington, and I’d experienced the powerful magic of the New York skyline seen for the first time. Ron pulled to a halt. Aladdin’s lamp broke the horizon: the iconic pattern in sun-baked beige and grey and black, squeezed between a pale blue sky and the darker glitter of the Hudson. I located the Twin Towers.
Then began a stately crawl, weaving from free-way to intersection; traffic lights on every junction reducing us, if not to walking pace, then at least to a well mannered jog. I drank it all in: the great green and white signs advertising exotic names like…Triborough
Communal gardens - and someone else cuts the grass.
A thousand cop shows flashed through my mind. I thought I saw Kojak strolling down Roosevelt. Then at last we reached home, Ron, Annette and Erica’s. Mine for a year. 76th Street, Jackson Heights.
Ron grumbled about the parking,but again I found myself in awe as a great Boeing 747 glided silently down, as if it too, was looking for parking. Annette saw me staring and smiled. “La Guardia’s just a mile or two away,” she said.
The apartment was on the fifth floor, accessed by an old fashioned elevator that opened directly into their main room. The elevator, we call them lifts, was a classic combination of metal and walnut paneling, and had a musty, woody smell. It smelt claustrophobic, as though I was breathing human odour collected over years.
I stared at the elevator a moment or two longer, knowing there was no escape that way for me. A good night’s sleep would have to do instead.
Ron and Annette’s bedroom made going to bed worthwhile: polished wood floors, dark blue walls and a four poster bed. Outside traffic hummed, sirens screamed. I put my head on the pillow, recollected all that had happened since hitting New York:
World Trade Centre, Rockefeller Centre, St. Patricks; I’d been to parties where I’d met Annette’s friends, and invited by one of them, Judy, to another party; met Ron’s family, and his sister gave me a mug, which I kept for many years until it was stolen. (Who’d steal a bloody mug?) I’d seen St Agnes for the first time, shared tea and Danish pastries with its Principal, Kathleen Waters, and shown round the school by Kevin Daley, professional, friendly, incandescent with energy. So far so good. Keep believing that. It works like a dream until you hit the ground.