When Deb, my wife and I first split up it was a horrible time. It was all over misunderstandings, frustration and emotional separation after so many bad things having happened. We could cope anymore. I moved into my mother’s and it was a nightmare. I felt really ill, but didn’t know what was wrong. I couldn’t cope with anything. I was falling apart. Deb eventually let me back in the house, we were still friends, but we were still split up.
A year prior to this I had joined Myspace to help promote the band I played guitar in and part managed. I hadn’t been on the internet for long and had never been involved in any social media groups. I didn’t know what I was doing. However, I suddenly found myself with loads of strangers chatting to me. I became really friendly with a few but one in particular became quite close. I felt like I could tell her anything and I hadn’t done that for a long, long time. It was normally the other way around, where people told me their problems. I had found the ear I subconsciously craved and desperately needed. She was called Dee.
Anyway, after talking for almost a year I eventually told Dee that Deb and I had split up. She went quiet for a short while, but then she suddenly declared her undying love for me! I found it so weird, but I knew that I liked her a heck of a lot and loved chatting with her. I was flattered and went with it.
After a while she called me up on the phone and said that she wanted to move to Newcastle, because she knew I wouldn’t move away from the lads. This was happening so fast! I just seemed to go with it all. I was swept away on a tidal wave of strange emotion. She’d been a model and that, but that don’t impress me much, because I’d been out with models before and all apart from one were a total pain in the arse. The one that wasn’t broke my heart. Looks always came second to personality for me, but Dee seemed to have both and she seemed so lovely.
I agreed that it would be great to meet. Soon after she stated that she was having problems and couldn’t get to Newcastle for that first meeting, so I said that I’d go and meet her instead and then we could take it from there.
…she was from New Jersey, USA!!!!
It was all organised very quickly. I asked her where we would be staying – at her house or a hotel or what? She said that although she was getting divorced from her husband he was still living with her until his new place came through, so she’d sort a hotel. The deal was that she’d pay for the hotel if I paid for my flight. Ok, I thought, but then when I asked which hotel we’d be staying at hotel she said it was a surprise. I was ok with that at first and it added to the magic a wee bit. However, I mentioned this to a few friends, who were asking about the details and when I told them I didn’t know they thought I was mad! No change there, apparently!
Even Deb, my wife, said that I should let people know where I was staying, so I asked again, but just got the whole surprise thing thrown at me. I wasn’t too bothered really and said that I’d be fine. This was my new found happy go lucky attitude until I got through check-in at the airport and they gave me a few cards to fill out including a visa. This asked for an address that I was going to be staying at and as I didn’t have one I frantically sent her a text, before the flight took off, explaining the situation. It would have been 3:00am over there, about five hours behind us and she’d probably be asleep. She’d hopefully get this message before I arrived 10.30am (ish) their time and she’d then, simply, forward the address to me. No problem.
I got talking to the guy next to me, who asked why I was going to US. Big mistake!!
He got my life story, but I had him laughing most of the flight. At the time I just thought I was a total fruit loop, because of the whole not knowing for sure about my background, getting loads of therapy and medication and that, so I mentioned stuff like that as well. Nothing was held back. I was and am very open and don’t mind telling anyone anything really, so he got loads of stories, about all sorts of things, from me and I got that he was an interior designer from Birmingham, called Derek and went back and forth regularly to upstate New York, was married and had one daughter. That was it!
Anyway, as we got in I turned my phone on, because I needed the address and checked for messages. I’d told Derek about this and when he saw that there were no messages at all on my phone he started to worry for me! Dee was supposed to be picking me up at Newark airport, the same one where the 911 flights went from, so I thought I’d best try and ring her, although I knew this was not really allowed. No answer! And again, no answer! Oh shit! I left a message, frantically stating that I needed the address of the hotel.
After telling Derek, the poor sod next to me, my life story on the plane I suddenly felt sorry for him and thought his senses must be completely battered. As we sorted out the rest of our hand luggage and belongings I apologised to him, but he shook my hand and thanked me for the company. Derek said that it was the best and, seemingly, shortest flight he’d had ever. This was, more than likely, because I’d not shut up, other than when we had grub, for the whole journey! I still thought he’d run away from me at the first opportunity, but was surprised to find that he walked off the plane with me and said he wanted to see what would happen!
I tried making more calls as we walked and talked, but just got absolutely nothing.
We headed to customs and stood in line. I felt sick! There were loads of armed guards about and the checking officers were armed as well. I got to the front of the queue and this huge, security guard stood in front of me, looking very stern and serious. He asked for my passport, which I gave him, looked at it and back and forth at me. I thought to myself “He knows. He’s waiting for me!” in that paranoid way I have, because nothing is ever easy! He then asked for my green card visa thingy. I gave it to him and he looked at it, looked back at me again and asked why there was no address on it? He started quizzing me. It felt totally silent all around and I could feel dozens of eyes turning towards me. It was the two massive eyes staring directly into mine and the owner of said eyes that I was more concerned about.
Oh, no! He was being polite and direct in that way US cops are polite before they pop your ass!
“You need to provide an accommodation address for the time you’re going to stay in the United States of America. Is your journey for business reasons or are you on vacation?”
He wasn’t happy, but hearing the word “vacation” in an American accent, made me feel good, but only for a split second, then I went back to feeling shite again!
“Are you travelling alone, sir, or are you meeting someone here?”
He said a few other things, but I didn’t really hear them, because my mind was quickly working out a response, whilst telling me that I was a fecking idiot and shouting at me “What the fuck are you doing here, you stupid pillock? You should be at home watching the World Cup on telly with the kids, but you’re here, in America, about to get arrested!” I could almost feel my inner mind rolling his eyes at me, again!
So, I took a deep breath and said to the humungous, heavily armed and quite angry, man in front of me:
“OK! OK! Now, looking at this from your point of view you’re obviously going to be worried that I’m trying to get into your country under false pretences, maybe take a job, against the law and then stay as an illegal alien or something like that. But! Look at it from my point of view…!”
He butted in,
“SIr! Who, are you visiting?” He now had his hand on his rifle.
“Well… I’m visiting my girlfriend.”
“OK sir, then what’s her address? We can put that on this form.”
“Errmmm! I don’t know her address!”
“What do you mean? You don’t know!”
“Well, I don’t know where she lives. She’s supposed to be meeting me here and taking me to a secret hotel that’s meant to be a surprise, so I don’t have that address either.”
“How do you not know where your girlfriend lives, sir?”
“Well, erm, this is my first time over here and I’ve, well, I’ve never met her before.”
I could hear everyone in the room’s subconscious minds saying those same two words. It felt like there was a collective gasp and everyone was waiting for an explanation, not least, the man, in front of me, holding a rifle and looking very angry and confused!
I had to say something and quick!
“OK, listen! Now, you’re worried, but, please look at this from my point of view. I’m coming over from England to meet my ‘girlfriend’ that I’ve never met before, because we met on the internet, on Myspace. Do you know Myspace? I was promoting my band, I play in a U2 tribute band and we met on there and chat to each other! So, she’s not really my girlfriend, in the true sense of the word, as we’ve not met before, but we’re supposed to be meeting here, she’s coming to pick me up. Well, she said she would, but I can’t get in touch. I’ve rung her and left messages, but she hasn’t replied and, as I said, she hasn’t told me where we’re staying, because it’s supposed to be a surprise!”
Silence! I was shaking by this time. I had nowhere to run. They’d shoot me down! I took a big gulp of air and started making noises out of my mouth, but didn’t really know what I was saying:
“Now! When I meet her, if she turns up that is, she may be lovely and it’s all a misunderstanding and that, but she also may turn out to look like you. She may even be a number of blokes, that’s men, pretending to be someone called Doreen and the next you may hear about me is when my body is fished out of the East River in a suitcase! I’m only supposed to be staying for just over a week, then I’ve got to get back to work and get back to my kids in Newcastle, that’s in the North East, if you haven’t heard of it. I don’t want to stay indefinitely in America, part of me wishes I’d never bothered coming at all now and I hope you can see that I’m not making any of this up and I’m much more worried about the current situation than you?!”
There was a brief pause and almost complete silence. It was, now, definitely apparent that everyone in the four queues, waiting to get through customs, had stopped and there were dozens of people and guards listening to my every word and waiting for the guard’s reply. His face looked like it was going to explode and I thought that I was either going to be arrested, beaten up, like in the movies and sent home on the next flight; or, arrested, beaten up, like in the movies, put in an orange jumpsuit and given tickets for a long term holiday in Guantanamo Bay!
My whole body seemed to have the energy drained from it and I thought I was going to collapse and faint, but in the blink of an eye, the stern look, on the face in front of me, slowly changed, his pouting, closed lips, were pulled into his face, then the corners turned up, ever so slightly, whereby the guard couldn’t hold it in any longer and started laughing his head off. Real huge belly laughs, like Oliver Hardy, in one of those rare occasions where he gave up his rolling eyes look and just let rip at Stan!
“Man, I’ve never heard anything like that before. I love your accent! Go on through and good luck man! I think you needs it!”
Everyone started laughing as he handed me my passport back. I looked around, smiled, saw Derek, my plane buddy grinning at me with a hint of pride and I walked through, gingerly, as they were still bliddy armed, but with an almost new found sense of celebrity status!
I went for my bags from the carousel and not only was Derek still with me, but a number of other people seemed to have tagged along to see how the story ended.
We all headed out together, but I felt at this point I wanted to be alone. Loads of people were standing waiting at arrivals. Some had name cards, some were hugging family and friends and, all of a sudden, I noticed that, there, stood waiting for me, was Dee. She didn’t look exactly like her photos on Myspace, she looked chubbier and a bit older, but it was definitely her. I pointed her out to Derek. He shook my hand again. Smiled and wished me good luck, then finally walked away from me into the throng of anonymous people.
I walked towards Dee and tried to smile, but the whole emotion of everything had hit me and I couldn’t raise a proper one. I wasn’t very happy to be honest because it dawned on me the situation I had been put in, was a bit annoyed, very anxious, extremely tired and wanted some answers. She looked very sheepish and on edge, but at least she was there and at least she wasn’t a huge, 6 feet 4 inch tall, Samuel L. Jackson lookalike.
Dee was actually only around 5 feet tall and wore jeans and baseball boots, so she looked tiny! We hugged, quickly, but it was a nervous, just touching and wanting loose as quickly as possible hug and I didn’t feel comfortable at all. There was something wrong.
I wasn’t bothered about the fact that she was over weight, in comparison to her photos, but her skin was blemished and pock marked as well. That wouldn’t normally matter to me, but all I could think of was that she hadn’t been truthful and sent me up to date photos. I felt disappointed in her and a quite let down. I knew in the pit of my stomach that I no longer had any feelings for this lass and I was supposed to spend almost two weeks with her in some fabulous hotel. I wasn’t looking forward to this anymore at all. I did, though, think of one other word, as well: drugs!
We spent the next hour looking for her car because she couldn’t remember where she’d parked it! We walked around every floor of the parking lot, then she decided it may have been a different parking lot. There was me carrying my back pack and dragging a suitcase with her walking ahead of me, with a bouncy stride, as if she was feeling for every step. She was off her head! I watched her every twitchy movement and she also kept pressing the button of her car keys to trigger the alarm and, hopefully, for goodness sake, reveal the whereabouts of the vehicle. Dee had asked the usual questions like “how was the flight?” and stuff like that, but wasn’t really talking, just cursing about being lost. I didn’t feel like talking at all, for once!
After an hour of wandering around and feeling like a zombie stuck in various parking lots, every now and then hearing the little, double bleep sounds of car alarms, getting excited, but seeing someone else heading to the teasing source of the elusive sound, finally, we found our treasure, in the first parking lot and on the first floor we’d tried all that time ago! By the time we were driving in a big, black, pick up truck, type thing, I was shattered. I decided to ask questions as she was no longer able to avoid me by walking ahead. I told her about the green card and that I’d phoned and sent numerous texts, including a one hours earlier to alert her to the problem. She said she hadn’t got that text and further explained that her phone was ringing whist she was driving on the way to the airport and couldn’t answer it. She then claimed to have forgotten to ring or text me when she got there! I wasn’t happy! I figured that she may be telling the truth, but doubted it very much.
I asked if we could go straight to the hotel but she wanted to take me to New York, Manhattan! This was a place I’d dreamed of visiting, but I didn’t feel like going right now. She seemed like she was on a mission, ignored me and drove to Manhattan.
I was in awe of the place, but was not happy. It was frustrating that Dee wasn’t listening. As we drove along the west side of Manhattan she said we could go to Washington Square in the Greenwich Village area (another place I wanted to visit) as she had some friends who hung about there and she wanted to see them. I didn’t!
She eventually parked up and we walked over to an entrance to the square, her bouncing ahead again. She looked around, seemed a bit frantic for my liking and quickly came to the conclusion that her friends weren’t there and we should go to another park instead. I put my foot down and said that I wanted to go to the hotel. She reluctantly agreed and we drove off, back to New Jersey. She then decided that she wanted to be a tour guide and took me to view the houses that are on the opening credits of The Sopranos and other places I wasn’t really interested in. It was all very nice, but I just wanted to go to this secret hotel, freshen up and maybe have a sleep. Having told Dee of my expressed wish she seemed to go a bit more introverted and seemed to drive aimlessly. I repeatedly asked her where the hotel was and she kept assuring me that it wasn’t far. I asked what it was called, so that I could look out for it, because, to me, she seemed lost. She ignored me and drove along the main highway, looking from left to right. ”It’s not far,” she kept repeating. Then all of a sudden she jolted her head up and declared that we’d found it. She pulled off the highway and headed into a motel car park. It looked ok, if a bit scruffy, but certainly wasn’t the great surprise she’d promised. Maybe this was the surprise. I doubted it! I was past caring! She told me to stay in the car and she’d sort the reservation. I said that I needed to stretch my legs, got out of the car and she went into the motel reception . I waited a second or two and then followed her. I listened in and heard her ask if they had a room. I knew then that my suspicions had been right. She hadn’t booked anything at all. I popped my head in through the door when the lady said that she did have some rooms and declared
“Can you make sure we have a twin room please and not a double?”
Dee’s face dropped and asked why. I stated that I wanted a twin room. I was quite annoyed now and said that my decision final, because I wasn’t sharing a bed with her. The lady said that all of the rooms were twin doubles anyway, so I could do what I liked. Dee paid for the room and we were taken round the back of the motel, surrounded by trees and taken to a very basic room. She went to give me a hug when we walked in, but I avoided her and headed to the bathroom for a shower after getting a few things sorted out. After getting washed and having a lie down, for an hour or so, with me not speaking to her again and making a point of lying on the bed she wasn’t on, she piped up and stated that we should go back to Washington Square and get some food. I agreed and we drove back.
We went into a pizza place and sat and chatted for a bit. I decided that I’d give her the benefit of the doubt and try to be as nice as I could. I thought that she may have been worried that I would chicken out at the last minute, not turn up and she would therefore, lose her deposit if she’d booked a place. I put that to her and she adopted that excuse. I was fine with that, but wished she’d been more honest and just given me her address as a forwarding one!
We had fabulous pizza and a glass of wine, sat outside of a restaurant just off Mulberry Street, with staff who treated you as if you were a long lost relative, then headed off into Washington Square again. Walking in I thought of the history surrounding this place, wondered about some of the famous people who had spent time wandering around this park. It was beautiful. I noticed a cordoned off section that was made into a dog park. I was just thinking of what a great idea that was when Dee suddenly changed again and said that her friends were in the centre of the park and she’d be back in 5 minutes. She bounced off. I watched her walk up to this group of guys and thought “why are they dressed in winter puffer coats when it’s June and flaming at that?!”
I walked up to them, three were talking to Dee doing various types of weird hand shakes and another three, looking like a real bad ass bunch of Run DMC mofo lookalikes, were pouting and checking out the whole area.
Shit! She was doing a drugs deal!
I had just scraped into the country by the skin of my teeth and now the girl I was with was doing a drugs deal with 6 of the meanest toughest and realest gangsters that you would not want to meet in a dream. I went straight up to her, kept my head down, touched her on the arm and said,
“Come on, we’re going.”
She protested and said she was just chatting with her friends. I said that I knew what was going on and we were going – NOW!
I was not a happy bunny!
One of the guys took an extra interest in me and said
“Hey man, where you from? Are you from England?”
I tried again to get her away from them and whilst attempting to do so, replied rather succinctly,
“Yes, now fuck off!”
I suddenly had a double take and saw myself standing behind myself watching the scene and saying to myself: “You didn’t just say that did you? Please tell me that you didn’t say that? Do you realise that you are in deep doo doo here?”
The three security types were looking at me and shifting their eyes to look around. I noticed that they each had a hand inside of their black puffer coats. I had a quick, closer look at these big, ridiculous coats and suddenly realised that the obvious reason they had them on, obvious to everyone other than me up to this point, was to conceal copious amounts of drugs, but also copious amounts of guns as well.
Guns! Shit! Then, to my surprise , one of the other Ice T lookalikes laughed and said,
“Ha,ha, ha, that’s great man! We love England! Your accent is really cool,man!”
I’d got away with it. Phew!
Instead of walking away, I strangely found myself turning to this guy and told him in my strongest, hardest, toughest Geordie voice (that to them just sounds like Hugh Grant with a sore throat), yes, you guessed it:
“Hey! Just FUCK OFF!”
I recoiled within myself. What was I doing? Two words came to mind: Death and wish! I couldn’t believe it and knew I wouldn’t get away with it a second time! Great, I’ve just got here, I’ve just managed to get in to America and I’m now going to be either arrested and deported for being party to a drugs deal in broad daylight or I’m going to get gunned down in sweaty blood and maybe that guard from the airport will remember me after all, as my body is, in fact, fished out of the East River in a suitcase! SHIT!
They started pleading with me that they were just doing some business and that I should have some too! They seemed to be happy with me, so I spoke to them again:
Third time unlucky?
Dee, assured me it was ok, but I was getting very frustrated. I was shaking with fear, anger and frustration. I was starting to have one of my panic attacks. She said she was just going to sort this all out and would be done in 2 mins. I heard a voice agree with her,
“Yes, we will get done in 2 minutes!”
“Right, that’s it, I’m off. I’m going.” I also then added “I’ll see you back at the motel!”
I had no idea in hell where the motel was, other than in the state of New Jersey, but I was off and headed to the far north east exit of the park.
She came running after me, followed by one of the So Solid Crew. She pleaded with me to wait but I was off. She walked back to obviously do her deal, but the other guy came up to me and got me to stop. He whispered to me to get on a train and meet him at a station in the Bronx!
“What?! You can fuck off ‘n’ all. Why would I want to do that?”
I continued walking off, but could still hear “Hey man! You’re accent is so great man!”
I walked across the road, I think I jaywalked as I didn’t wait for the lights to change and could have been flaming arrested for that, headed round the corner, looking behind me to see if I was being followed and walked into a shop to get away from what had just happened. I was breathing as if I’d just run a marathon. The attendant in the shop looked at me, seemed concerned for a second and asked if I wanted help. I said that I was ok, but I suddenly felt like I had to make a double take, as I had gone back into normal world and was no longer in let’s get shot in the afternoon world.
“Erm, thanks, I’m just looking.” I then realised that I’d walked into a shoe shop, a trainer shop actually. I transformed into consumer mode and very quickly my eyes caught a pair of Levi baseball boots staring at me and thought … mmm!
“How much for these, please?”
“Nah, I’m not paying that.”
“Ok, what will you pay?”
A haggler! Love it! I suddenly forgot for a brief second what had just happened and started into Life Of Brian haggle mode! I managed to get him down to $25 and bagged myself a bargain! Around £15 for a pair of baseball boots! I tried them on and they were perfect.
As I was trying them on the door opened and Doreen came in with a big newspaper package! She had obviously done the deal and had her illegal wares in what looked like a fish and chips wrapper! I couldn’t believe it!
I tried to ignore her, as if I didn’t know her, paid for my new shoes and just kept them on.
We got out of the store and I said
“Ok, back to the hotel now! We need to talk!”
We got back, driving in silence and I grilled her when I felt we were safe in the motel room. It all came out.
She was still married, not separated. Her husband had heard her phone go at 3am, checked the phone while she slept and of course woke her up demanding answers. She’d left under a cloud and was in trouble. She was also a drug addict and that’s why she couldn’t get a flight over to England. She didn’t have a passport and couldn’t get one yet because she was on remand.
I couldn’t believe it. She was a total nutcase and this whole charade was crazy! Hang on! Was I an even bigger fool for believing her? I felt like a real pillock. I told her to go and get her life sorted out and try to save her marriage, on the understanding that she’d come back on my final day and take me back to the airport, because I didn’t have a clue where I was and certainly wasn’t going to pay for a taxi all that way. She agreed. The tears flowed from her eyes as she left. I waved her off and wished her well.
I was alone. I felt a sudden sense of worry, stuck by myself in the middle of New Jersey, but then, just as quick, this emotion changed.
I felt relieved. I then suddenly felt great. I was a tourist and Manhattan was only forty minutes away by bus. That was when the fun started…….