That Night in New York
If I had one night to spend in New York on my way to Africa, I wouldn't have an argument. I’d use my time more wisely. And then of course I would not be me and, to be fair, he would not be him, the stubborn man I married thousands of years ago when I was barely born and knew no better.
But, whatever or however a horrible pair we were descending upon this city for that fateful night, it was fortunately not within our nefarious powers to ruin the whole of Manhattan. Just our little corner, a very cute little corner in the lower East Village known for its small, understated boutique hotels on narrow busy streets, close to everything that is cool. And, to be accurate, we argued only part of the night, the rest of it lay there untouched.
There wouldn't even have been an argument in this glamorous setting if it weren’t for the fairly typical proliferation of my husband’s ample flaws looking grubby against the background of my effortless poise.
But how to delicately circumnavigate the ground zero of our dispute and cut to the good parts. It’s easier in the writing and of course it’s days, weeks ago, so we can’t even remember why we argued at all.
All of this helps Manhattan to elbow itself into the foreground of the generally blurred nature of this memory.
So let’s all agree to call the argument, 'what argument?', fake news, an alternate fact, it never happened, but all these yummy things did. Like the fact, the real fact, that the hotel I chose, The Ludlow is so deliciously dim that I could hardly tell the difference between myself and the other very young, very cool urbanites draped all over the shadows. And this hotel celebrates age. I love that.
The dimensions here in the Ludlow are the opposite of those in, say, Shenzehn, China. In these dimensions, in this lighting, you can believe humans built this old brick building, these chaotically narrow streets out there, this vibrating metropolis. I like that. I like it so much that I forgave my window for looking out on one of those expanding layered parking gadgets. That’s huge.
The hotel personnel, hopefully soon to be reunited with their worried parents, were saved from my potential wrath by the fact that I would be gone the next morning, early. Africa cannot be kept waiting.
So there was just the damp chilly glow of the late afternoon sunlight on the brick exteriors with their fire escapes and a fire inside with a husband and his martini, which makes me less drunk by comparison, and the promise, from google, that an Indian restaurant of note lay steps away.
In fact it was literally steps away, round the small brick block – I love that New York has uptown blocks so monumental that I can avoid by coming down here where the blocks are so small and confused they often end up being trapezoids or just zoids.
So this block was so circumventable it was over before we could breathe faster and right there was this Indian restaurant the size of a small shop front. Again the scale, so cuddly. And only one table for two free, and oh the degree of India in the air. I’d been in Delhi months ago, but this place, if you applied a microscope to its molecules, you would have seen all the kingdoms of Rajasthan, the whole of it, complete with blue Jodphur and pink Jaipur. And everyone in the restaurant was certifiably Indian – even after Trump.
When you leave Africa for adventure and end up living in Boulder with so few People of Color, you get excited when you see diversity, you have an emotional reaction. You feel sufficiently prepped for your trip back home to South Africa.
But now, quick, to the pappadums, and the roti, secretly called anything else but roti here. You have to use code words and waitstaff have to play long guessing games while other guests in close proximity start shuffling around in their seats.
“So think” this is my husband, a navy gin martini later and rather more theatrical than the occasion calls for “what does your mother make at home?” Head shakes all round.
“It’s small, it’s flat, it stretches.”
“It’s so humble you would probably deny it multiple times.”
Is it this? Someone leaps out from the kitchen spinning something small, round, stretchy and deeply humble in his left hand.
My husband, who now thinks he’s on Broadway, reaches out and pulls the little flat thing. It springs back. A sort of edible boomerang that comes back without having to let go.
This is it. A roti by any other name.
By this time the whole restaurant is excited. And relieved. And that’s the last I remember until The Argument.
Flavors rain down on us, flavors naked and released, dancing a Bollywood of shameless ecstasy. Others cloaked in thick sauces, all the shades of earth, are no less forward. As the bowls land we pounce with torn off bits of the unmentionable flatbread. People are trying to get into the restaurant. Inside people are so warm and happy. Faces are pressed up against the big glass windows. Lines are forming.
No-one should have mentioned Trump. My husband and I agree on the issue of Trump but we do it in such a disagreeable way. When I speak about Trump I want to stand up and shout and throw things. Michel wants me to behave, very well, because Trump makes him think about chaos and the end of the world and I seem to be enacting that.
Look I didn't stand up, or throw things but I think my voice might have, just a bit. I think we have to rise up and revolt and Michel thinks we should sit quietly and think and then get busy doing something that might come in handy when we have to leave for Mexico, or Canada.
There were hot spices in that curry. But, fortunately, this is all fake news. We didn't walk out barely talking, hurt by our disparate ways of dealing with the trumplitude of life. We didn't go to bed quietly as though we hadn’t just had a night to remember.
Here’s what we did. We made up very quickly, adeptly, with sinuous gymnastic moves so elegant you could barely see where the cracks had been. We walked home, round the picturesque brownstone block, hand in hand, down the delightfully dim corridor to the giant kingsize bed in the small cute room with the curtains between us and the mobile carpark. We kissed good night and wished ourselves infinitely more days like today, days where everything works out just the way we hoped it would.