Fut-fut-fut-fut-fut-fut go the pigeon’s wings slapping the walls of its tiny concrete airshaft by my window. I sit up in my mattress and rub my eyes, wondering how many days the same injured bird has struggled to find it’s piece of sky. I could help, but the window doesn’t open properly. Instead I stand up, smirking at how absurd my dream was, and stretch. Then my landlady calls me through to her room. I gulp and enter to find her frantically trying to move her piano towards the door. She claims the old thing is her last material association with her dead parents, and now she wants to remove it once and for all. I agree and we begin the farce of pushing and shoving which accumulates in floorboards buckling and the piano crashing to the floor below, in a diabolical clang of cracked wood and strings. At this point my landlady starts to have a seizure - writhing on her back with trembling hands held out willing me to help her but I can’t, I won’t, it’s not my responsibility! Then I lose my footing as new floorboards cave in, and find myself tumbling to the next level where I land with a soundless thud that wakes me up on the pull-out couch in my new flat. ‘Thank God’, I think. ‘Thank God I’m not still living with her.’
Relief starts to flake, though, as I catch that faint whiff of gas coming from the kitchen; a pickled, acrid stench that has sullied my short stay in Greenpoint. Somewhere in the narrow corridor/ kitchen which divides my room from theirs, Brian and Lynda have allowed an unmistakable gas leak to persist. Despite my pleas, they have neither acknowledged nor addressed the problem. I bump into Brian in the hallway and suggest calling in the building manager to look at the pipes, but he just starts talking about the election; there’s no longer any doubt that Obama will win, he says. I leave the house wondering how I could frame his negligence in a court of law; perhaps an attempt on my life? A form of anti-semitism?
Things seem normal enough until I reach Lexington avenue, where a Mexican man selling Obama badges on a stand starts yelling abuse at a suited man with no hair, saying, ‘Of course he win. He gonna frickin’ win Okay?.’ The bald man is taunting him: ‘What if he doesn’t, eh? What if he doesn’t?’ Badge man pummels the bald man against a wall, flustering him, and then starts to stab him with the needles of his badges, leaving several of them sticking out oddly from his suit. The suited man shrieks as droplets of blood seep from his shirt, until two passers-by jump in to restrain the badge seller. When I ask what the hell is going on a man in a detective’s hat pulls me aside to explain that the bald guy is an agent working for John McCain. Republican secret agents have been deployed all across New York to sabotage Obama’s campaign and frame him as a terrorist. I tell him that’s absurd; he gives me a wise-guy look, says I’m just a kid, I’m too young to know. Just then the ground rumbles and shakes with the power of an earthquake. The detective shouts,‘take cover!’ and grabs me by the torso, bringing us both to the ground. I turn back just in time to watch two enormous steel iPods slamming into the Chrysler building, buckling its structure from the base. Its lofty spire starts to rotate very slightly, and while the entire city falls into panic, I have the sensation of rising to the surface of a lake in which I can breath. I think, ‘it’s about time I get out of this crazy city.’
I am in bed, in London. My room holds an acute silence. Downstairs I finger the ingrained rice on the wallpaper. Yes, this is reality. Then something visceral kicks in as I enter the kitchen; a queer, overwhelming sadness, a sense of having missed something, an opportunity let slip. I have made a mistake, I know that much. Then I see the front page of the G2. No picture, only one word: ‘Wow!’
The waiting, the incremental results from each state. The horrible fear of another wrong man in office. The dire possibility of Palin as vice president. The tipping point with Florida. The realisation that it was going to happen. The joy as it did. The euphoria. The insanity of a metropolis in collective exultation. The event. The ripples throughout the world. I can’t even bring myself to read any further. Obama has won and I missed it by a single day.
‘One day!’ I cry, groan, scoff at my own idiocy, stamp my foot down. My gut feels like it’s churning cement.
‘A fucking day!’