I’m writing from the desk of a friend of inestimable worth: he has a spare bedroom in Manhattan. I flew back from London on Tuesday night and was surprised by how strongly I felt that I had returned home. The city conspires to seduce me as I prepare to leave it: the tail of summer is long, so the days are still warm; even the ride from JFK to the city wasn’t as hideous as it usually is. Friends are around and miraculously available, and a little dismayed I’m leaving them, at least for a while.
I’m excited at the prospect of being back inside my old home, in Sydney, the still point of my moving world. Living out of a suitcase just isn’t my style. But suddenly I’m aware of how I’ve barely scratched the surface of this city, my new home. Working so intensively on the book – four or five days a week, for long months of the past year – means that everything else I did here was squeezed around its demands on my mind and my time. For much of that time I felt incredibly lonely as well, and realise now that the isolation was closely tied to what I was writing about.
The uglier aspects of living in New York have suddenly faded. Now, I tend to feel that the city is like an incredibly interesting and attractive person who I’ve just met, who has much to offer, but whose kind friendship I am reluctantly having to turn away from. Cities, like people, are complicated. The best ones are worth the effort of getting to know them.