A Moment (from the second day in America)

On the first day, B takes me to buy a warm jacket, shows me how to buy a metro card, how to use the subway and helps me get a cellphone contract. I have exact money in my budget for these things. I count the money, write it down in a small book. I tell her which shops I need to go to, how far they are and which is the best contract to have.

It is so cold, I am shaking and we cannot find the jacket I want. We take a photo of us standing in Washington Square to send home. I look at bangles for Z. We walk. I have addresses written in my small book. I am very prepared. We walk the blocks down from Gramercy Park. B points out where I can take busses. Where she takes busses to school. She tells me how in winter, she didn’t have the right boots and the snow went right through and she was miserable all that winter and how the big snow storm meant no one could go out. We are from Durban. I understand. We go for breakfast at an Irish place nearby and I feel strange, uncomfortable; we eat waffles. They are big. I think in my head about how much I am supposed to tip here: I check my small notebook. 20%. I hear they pay their staff less here than South Africa. This thought is strange. Later, when I put one dollar in a cup of a man who is begging, I think I just gave him R15 and it feels strange to give an American money. In the restaurant, I wonder if I can ask for a glass of water like back home but she brings it first anyway and I relax a little. I ask them to pack away my leftover waffles. I will eat it for supper because I know it now and it is not strange. I stress about the tip and if I have enough change. I pay the bill and we leave and I forget how cold it is outside until we step out the door and my cheeks sting.

Later in the small apartment, B is gone to campus and I look out at the street below and it is like I know this place but I don’t. It is dark and cloudy, the sky is moody. Opposite me is Dunkin’ Donuts and again, I feel overwhelmed and I threaten to spill over the edges. I sit in the warm apartment and pull on my down jacket. Tomorrow B leaves for Ireland and I will be alone here.

I have my money, I have my simcard, I have my metrocard, I have my jacket and I have my hiking boots. I am safe. I can do this.

I cross out things in my little notebook. Count my money. Clutch my jacket. Send pictures home.

Look out the window at a world which is so unfamiliarly familiar.

Posted in alone, america, female, muslim, New York, solo, South Africa, Travel, USA.

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