I wrote that on the back of a boarding pass as we touched down in San Francisco from Sydney. The sun was coming up over the horizon ... the same sun that warms me back at home. I thought of all my friends I had met in the computer, continue to meet. We have the same sun. It was sad to leave today, just knowing I was in the same country felt really lovely, even if we didn’t meet up.
Coming to America was one of the boldest things Dave and I have ever done together. He’d always resisted going; especially since 911. He also thought he wouldn’t enjoy himself that much ... his curiosity piquing his interest when I finally told him I was going and I meant it – with or without him.
So we saved up, bought our tickets on the day he got the all-clear from cancer again .... and we went to America. Just like that.
We explored, shopped, ate, walked, laughed, cheered, fought, slept, and tried about fifty different coffee houses. Dave had been saying for ages – years – that he wanted to buy himself a really good suit, once in his life. He bought it from Fifth Avenue. Yves St Laurent. I’m too embarrassed to say what it cost. He told me a number and I said “Hundred?”
I went with him to go and pick it up, walking into that shop with a camouflage tank top on, black shorts, and thongs. I felt RIDICULOUS, Dave couldn’t care a less, introducing me to Fun Fun, the sales assistant who thoughtfully helped him buy the suit .... the shirts .... the two pairs of shoes. She looked through me and squeezed my hand so hard when she shook – game on, bitch. I stood there, eyes blazing, crunching her hand back for about five seconds after the shake should have finished. Dave didn’t notice. I felt victorious.
She got all of his stuff together in a bag and tied it with a big white ribbon. I took photos of the interesting juxtaposition of my thongs on the rug in a high end fashion house. If a woman in black Havaianas stands in the middle of a forest of exquisite clothing .... is she really even there?
No. But she’s there enough to remind her husband to query the bill. Dave had paid for it a few days before, but it just didn’t add up to him. The three of us stood there with Fun Fun in her six-inch stilettos, telling me I should come back and shop for me next time. Umm, I don’t think so. Dave hesitated, so I jumped in. “Actually Fun Fun, we wanted to ask you about the total amount.”
She good-naturedly humoured us, the hick Aussies, and read the receipt. And read it. And excused herself while she went to the back room. By this time, a lovely dress had caught my eye, the flowing material stitched in such a way that it fell like a golden statue. “Try it on hon!”
“No WAY. I need to get out of here it makes me angry.” Dave just laughed.
Fun Fun came back, not so full of the fun fun. “Ahhhh, Mr Riley I am so sorry ..... it must have scanned twice, ummmmm .... I have refunded your card straight away.”
She told us the number she refunded.
“Hundred?” I asked.
“Thousand.” She replied as she stuck her hand out (again!). I crunched it good.
Dave felt so bad that he dragged me into Chanel . Come on hon! Try a dress on! I told him no, I can’t. I have thongs on for goodness sake. So he went up to the shoe section, picking up these dainty black quilted sneakers. Like, a Converse for the filthy rich.
I couldn’t do it – I didn’t like them anyway, so there was no point trying them on. Plus, the security guard was literally following us around the store.
But then .... I saw the coolest black summer sandals. And I tried them on and fell in love and bought them. They were the cheapest shoes there ... I’ve worn them every day since and by GOD do I get comments on them! I had no idea so many women looked at each other’s shoes! Even the customs lady at JFK came running over. “Are they what I think they are? Oh, they are my size!” I asked her if she was going to confiscate them.
“No – but I’m goin’ tomorrow. I am buying myself those shoes. Mmm-hmmm, yes. Yes I am!”
I have them on right now, as I’m typing this, eleventy-something miles up in the air on the plane. The flight attendants formed a semi-circle around me outside the toilet – no shit – for a viewing.
So we are gone, America. Thank you for sharing New York with us. I asked Dave to tell me some adjectives to describe it. He thought, then said, “What’s an adjective?”
I love that man. He was the one who learnt where all the streets were. I had no idea. We balance each other out like that.
Now it’s all just a memory. Crossing the street in the heat and the mayhem and the chaos. The burgers and the lovers. The accents, shopping, the greenbacks and the views. Discovering things on every street – every street has a story or a shop or a park. Going up the Rockefeller Centre on our last day. Discovering Little Italy by accident. Drooling at the vintage clothes shops. Getting sore necks from looking up at all the buildings in the city, making people behind us annoyed but they are just so tall!
On the infamous Fifth Avenue day, we decided to get our hair cut. “Let’s just go in here hon.”
We went in, (again I felt like breaking into a rousing rendition of ‘Folks are Dumb/Where I come from.’) I sat there, in the gold-plated chair, taking photos of Dave in the mirror.
I shed a tear – just one. Because he had hair to cut. Not that long ago, he was bald as a badger from chemo and half-dead. Today, he has hair to cut.
And that is why I didn’t foam at the mouth and spin around the room when he told me the price of his suit.