It was my second and last evening in New York. Forty hours of my 50-hour New York hourglass had lapsed. I had visited about 90 percent of all places that I initially wanted to see, using nothing but my very own feet for transportation all around Manhattan. I was completely and entirely down and out due to my 14-hour patrolling that started from Bowery Street in China town at 6 am that day, continued all the way down Broadway to Battery Park, then straight to Times Square. I had bought quite a few of the tacky, yet classic “I (heart) NY” souvenirs for my family and friends back home. Although up until that moment I used to pride myself as an extremely tolerant person who respects all races and nations, the Chinatown episode from my New York experience almost completely destroyed my intact reputation of a non-racist.
On top of everything, the $140 room I had booked online a couple of days earlier and where I eventually got to sleep only about two hours altogether for the two nights that I spent in New York, was in what felt like a half star creepy youth hostel in the middle of Chinatown, in a room that was exactly as wide as the bed that was in it and had no windows whatsoever. What followed next was some random wandering around and trying to find some key Manhattan destinations that my summer landlord in
It all finished by what felt like crawling all the way up Fifth Avenue to Central Park and particularly to the place and state of my mind and body that the African-American water supplier had spotted me in. As all these recent memories were flashing through my mind while I was resting in the quiet Central Park, my heels were swollen as, what Bulgarians say, a bag of fermented dough. So, normally, talking to the random African-American stranger was the last thing I was up for.
I have some water here, you know. Just so you know, I have my cart here with some bottles if you get thirsty. The guy seemed friendly so I couldn’t afford to be rude or impolite. I had my mouth full with some of the 20-dollar salad I had bought for dinner from a decent downtown salad bar called “The Green” (I was proud of my choice to go with the healthier option, considering the fact that Burger King was right next to this organic heaven), so I just pointed at my diet Snapple, implying that I was good and didn’t need any other drinks.
Why alone? the persistent water supplier said. That was more than a clear indication that he was definitely planning to continue with this conversation. Although I had spent the past day and a half wandering around New York completely alone and had talked to zero people I had known before the trip, I was feeling totally overwhelmed with physical and emotional exhaustion. It felt like I had met at least a thousand people, and each of them had told me the story of their life from birth to present day, without sparing any dramatic detail. Bottom line – I was out of energy and half awake, only thanks to the five coffees and three cokes I had had.
So in normal circumstances, I would have ignored the water guy or politely apologized and avoided any interaction. This time, however, I saw yet another opportunity for exploring one more slice of the New York reality, so I looked at the guy and smiled with the last energy I had left, indicating that I wasn’t just another obnoxious tourist who wouldn’t bother talking to him. “Appreciating the beauty of solitude is bliss, you know,” the water guy said staring at my shoes that I had taken off to let my poor feet relax and lose the smell of sweaty leather.