By the time I was 20, I had only seen one black person in my life. So it was a different world for me when we arrived at the Port Authority Bus Station at 10:00 at night, a dirty station packed with travelers rushing to catch buses, vagrants and suspicious characters lounging against walls, smoking and chewing on matchsticks, giant combs sticking out of their hair. Mary Lynne was making call after call, hanging up and redialing as I tried to avoid the eyes boring holes into me, checking me out. I thought we should leave and get a room somewhere, her friend was a flake if he knew she was coming, perhaps the YWCA, but when I asked a cop who was trolling the station with a hard piece of weaponry in his hand if it was safe to walk, he shrugged. 'You're taking your chances.'
At the top of the escalator, I almost fell over a man crouched before me, crawling along the floor examining pieces of scrap paper, turning them over and dropping them and moving crablike on his feet. His hair was matted, his hands black, and he was encrusted with ten year's worth of dirt. I shrieked and jumped back, but nobody else paid him any mind, just brushed by and kept going. Outside, the street lights were a murky yellow, and with the steaming sewers and garbage and ominous vibes, I felt like I was in hell.
The YWCA wasn't that far, but the lobby was packed with people sitting on the floor smoking cigarettes under the glaring lights, yelling and fighting. The noise was deafening and they didn't have a room anyway.
There's so much to do and see in New York.
Empire State Building
Statue of Liberty
Museum of Modern Art