My dad drops us off at the airport in his old white Mercedes.
Left-hand drive. . He presses a yellow Kodak wallet into my hands.
His instructions are explicit. I’m travelling with Kate. She’s dyed
her blond hair red and has a girlfriend at Sussex. We bus it straight
upstate, on to Smith College, Massachusetts: the place is swarming
with home-made blueberry muffins, politicised lesbians, plaques
that say …
Our house has a porch and is owned by a woman who’s reading
. She has a small son who won’t
wave goodbye when we leave. As the Greyhound pulls in
to Port Authority a man with a crack pipe circles in a wobbly
figure of eight. I’m dropping Rescue Remedy on to my tongue
but I’m so paranoid it might as well be acid and now there’s a change
of plan: Cleveland – who we’re supposed to be staying with –
won’t be home from Rio for another two days, so it’s my other brother
Saul who I don’t know, that ambles up to meet us, two hours late.
he shrugs He glances, briefly, at Kate.
Saul wears gold and big square glasses. On the drive through Brooklyn
to his place in the Bronx we stop by a video shop that sells hard-core
kung fu and porn, then at a hot, dark flat. A woman with a wig
and a nylon negligee lives here. We eat brown stew fish with rice
from plates on our laps. Saul lays newspaper on the floor.
I see a cockroach and at the same time the woman screams
In the car Saul warns: . Shakira
welcomes us in a whirlwind of and a
while she helps us unpack.
She’s loud. Alive. Thin. Energetic. Unstoppable. I’m desperate
to change the subject so I say the worst thing I could possibly say
which is . I try but can’t take it back.
Shakira searches my luggage like a customs officer on a bonus scheme.
Her face brightens with the prize then falls.
I don’t sleep well that night. Neither does Kate who can do everywhere
and anywhere. It feels like forever before we ring Cleveland’s
front door. He flings it open, smiles with a cocktail in his hand.
he cries and we step, finally, inside.