Now listen to this.
One week after arrival I look in the mirror. My left eye is bloodshot. Miosis stupefactionis. I regularly wake up in the middle of the night with sharp pains in the chest. If I die here, and so soon, I’m afraid my friends back home will always remember me with a mocking smile on their lips.
Two weeks after arrival I get sick. I would be lying if I told you that getting sick – three days in bed, coughing my lungs out – was caused solely by shaking hands with dodgy landlords. Or by lack of sleep caused by Black History month at the rap school next door. No. New York City says do not sleep. It is delirious. These weeks are drenched in alcohol and dance. The conversation never stops. Talks are intense, deep, excessive. Long. Endless.
March 17, 2015.
Out of bed after three days of feverish delirium, I am straight back at it again. Not intentionally though. Cautiously – step by step – making for the Saint Patricks’s Day parade in the afternoon, warned by the newspapers to stay clear of projectile vomiters, late at night I wind up on the 24th floor of a building in Tribeca. I am having my fourth beer on a private party hosted by an Irish Wall Street trader. It’s me against you, New York.
“Look at it! Each time, it will throw you in the hinges.”
This luxury apartment overlooks Old New Amsterdam – the Financial District. The short man with whisker talking to me is Rocco. Rocco is an Argentinian award-winning cinematographer. Nervous and energetic. He is singing the praises of the city of dreams. With passion and quite a funny inclination.
“The hinges?”, I ask.
“Yeees. The hinges of the boxink ring. Look!”, and Rocco puts up his fists for the fight, “This is you. You are boxink and the city ees your boxink rink. But the question you are askink yourself while fightink ees: who am I fightink?”
“I don’t know.”
“Ha! Of course you don’t know. Because the person you are fightink is…yourself!”
“Next question: what ees the fight about?”
“I don’t know.”
“Ees about two thinks. One. Ghow can I reach my goals? Second. Ghow can I reach my goals while stayink at peace with myself?”
I smile, nodd and stare through the window. At that moment I have no idea how right Rocco is. Instead, it is not easy hiding my amusement while he’s trying so hard to make a serious point.
“Hermano, I tell you that it ees ghard. So ghard. But at the same time, never forget one bery important think.”
“Deliber your fight with joy. Enjoy your fight. This, exactly this ees what makesa this place so biutiful. People in this city rush to work, through the heavy treffic, on the nasty streets, they workink it very hard. But they enjoy every day. It ees because of the will power. It ees that will power that I admire so much.”
“Yeees. From the taxi driber to the big boss of Wall Street, they beliewe in themselbes. Because if you don’t beliewe in yourself, you better go! This ees not your place! The city will speet you out like a rotten potato!”
“Look at it again!”, he commands, adding more fire. “Can you see eet?”
“How many lights?”
“Maybe a thousand?”
“Maybe. Maybe a ten thousand. Maybe a million. Who knows? Nobody. Counting them take-a too longue and nobody eber done it!”
“Look! That’s a million lights, a million adbentures for you! Just think of it! Treaties that will change the fate of the whole world, that decide war and peace, are signed right there, right now, before your eyez. The young biolin player that will change the future of music is practicing all alone in her little basement room, maybe with a broken heart, somewhere there, right now. We cannot see gher. But actually, we can.”
“Now you told me earlier that you lobe it here.”
“Hermano, I tell you, this ees only the beginning. I know that you will fall in lobe much harder, much deeper. What you feel now is only superficial lowe, lobe of the schoolboy for the teacher. In fact, New York…ees…she ees a biutiful woman. It ees the most biutiful woman you habe eber seen…”, Rocco is now aiming for the peak of his passion, “this woman, this bery biutiful woman come close to you, she looks you in the eyez. You know that she has chosen you, and then she giva you a softa keess, the sweetest keess you habe eber receibed. A small, softa keess of lobe. But then…”
“Pats!”, he shouts as if this were the grand finale, “she hits you right on the face, hard like only a biutiful woman can. It is painful. But you cannot wait to come close again, start it all over again, just to experience that one keess, once more. Because this keess is the sweetest keess you habe eber tasted.”
“Hermanos”, my Colombian friend and roommate Felipe interrupts. The two set off in Spanish. I step back and look through the window. I imagine destruction and death taking place, right before my eyes, on a massive scale. Someone turns up the music, the party is going up. Lights dimmed, most couples leaving, there’s more space for wildness.
To be continued…