USA: New York City, 2018 | Part I

when I changed my bus tickets, I already knew that I was gonna be late for free MoMA Friday. but life always gets in the way, so suck it up, girl. I opted for the one that would arrive in New York City faster with one transit.

the whole trip was about six hours. I couldn’t remember much except the transit because I pretty much slept all the way. sincerely feeling sorry for the lady sitting next to me. that’s when I learnt that I could wear my contact lens and close my eyes for such a long time! seventeen-hour flight back home, I’m ready. (yes, I broke my glasses a few months back.)

the transit station was a small one. there wasn’t any number anywhere. back in Washington DC, a lady in print pants who’s in line behind me had complained to me how Greyhound didn’t bother to send her an e-mail regarding the cancellation. I said, me too. I was afraid that I was gonna miss my connecting bus, so while journaling, I kept an eye on this print pants lady. a ball of anxiety swelling inside me. I don’t even know what exactly I was anxious about. Christ.

I arrived at a rush hour and gloomy New York City. now, I’m someone who has been to the shady bus station at Bangi, yet, I still found this station underneath Times Square just as scary. it was a busy one, but it gave me much more anxiety than the ones in Tokyo or Taipei.

okay, calm down, Ruo Ling. first, get your Metro Card. then get on the E line. you’ll be fine. after struggling through floors after floors, a dude tried to help me get my card. I said no, no thanks, no, I can do it myself and my eyes were on my wallet, my backpack, my luggage, my fanny pack and the ticketing screen all at once. it took me some time to find the ramp to the E train. I made a mental note on it for when I return a few days later.

guess who’s trained (hah, punny) to have a thick face when it comes to squeezing into the train at peak hours? embarrassed with my luggage, yes, but my thick face won. it wasn’t easy. the wheels of my luggage only decided to work perfectly well on the train. they kept sliding in all direction.

I arrived at Court Square Station. somehow, when thinking of arriving in NYC from another place, I always think of Lady Bird lugging her luggage out from the stairs of a subway to a random street. although truth be told, I look far less elegant from Saoirse Ronan. following my instinct, I dragged everything all the way to one end of the station. stairs. uh-oh. I was expecting this after watching a lot of Instagram Stories of my friends struggling with their luggage.

I couldn’t remember but if I’m not mistaken, someone helped me with it. as always, “ohhhh no, thanks, it’s heavy. it’s very heavy.”

okay. so where the hell am I? Google Maps told me to go straight all the way, cross to the right, go straight, cross an alley, go straight and make a left. easy, right? nope. I was panting all the way. I passed through this neat little hidden restaurant and couldn’t help but feel a little envious for the people inside. “at least you guys don’t need to drag so many pieces of luggage across New York City. you live in New York City.”

as I walked through the swing door to my dorm, I could hear a group of people outside remarking, “oh, I wouldn’t bring that much stuff to New York.” DID YOU THINK I WANTED TO? I would very much love to send this thing back to Malaysia if I could afford it. thank you.

the front desk guy asked if I had a pleasant trip to NYC. I looked at him, all sweaty, and said, “URRGHHH.” yes, I literally did that. when he told me that my room’s on the second floor, I was hoping he would help me with my luggage, this time it’s “oh PLEASE, thanks, it’s heavy. it’s very heavy.” but all he did was give me an “all the best” face. dude, really? but who was I to hate him though? he must’ve all sorts of crazy requests every day.

I walked past the common area, the kitchen, to the stairs. oh, God, no. I’m not ready for this. not after I just dragged them around for almost an hour. being in an all-girls-and-only-one-guy department in the water park, one thing I learnt in the USA was I never knew what I can do until I do it. I used to always look for the easy way out… by look I mean I literally look at my guy friends and beg them to help me carry stuff most of the time. this time, I gritted my teeth, rolled my sleeves and got them both up into my room. one more step, just one more step, and one more, and another, oh c’mon, one more, another, and… you made it! two trips. 30KGs. three flight of stairs. your girl Ruo Ling is a strong, independent woman. *smugs*

after checking out the rooftop view (what a view!) and settling down (someone in my room plays with film camera, there are at least two guys, I wonder what they’re up to, oh my god the shower is so narrow, I hope no one is fat here, mmmm the sheets are crisp and nice, wait do I wear my shoes in or do I leave it… here… or here, shit am I the only one with so much stuff), I really wanna just conk on my bed, but it was still early and it’s such a waste. after much contemplation, I decided to check out NYC at night. having back pain just after three days, I left my backpack and only brought a sling bag with me.

NYC Subway, ew. as I waited for the train, I read the notices that were everywhere in the train station, something about this train closing for road work at midnight and additional buses, blah blah blah. it caused me a lot of anxiety. I don’t wanna be stranded in such scary stations at midnight!

before heading out, I’d plan to catch the Japanese animation Perfect Blue at the Metrograph—an indie movie theater (and it’s quite famous). I’ve made it a point to watch at a repertory cinema in the US at least once. this was a good time since my plans were all messed up and the showtime fitted perfectly.

to the Metrograph I went. I took the subway, got down the subway, walked past a park, walked past some Chinese shops, walked past more Chinese shops, looked into the Chinese shops to see which one I can run into just in case anything happens because it’s starting to feel scary, made it into a darker street and I was almost there. I looked into the left street where Metrograph is located and saw a group of party animals loitering there. I was so near! but my instinct told me to turn back. without much hesitation, I listened and almost broke into a run. I kept walking and kept walking without stopping until I saw a McDonald’s and realised that I was hungry. well, I was never a person who made sure her stomach is filled well.

eating at McDonald’s in New York City. that’s like the worst thing you can do, right? this country, in a lot of ways, is like home. think the melting pot and the racism. and New York City? it’s all the more. there’re so many people in this metropolis, which means there’s a lot of good food just like home. and of these choices, I chose McDonald’s. =)

my first time ordering from a machine at McDonald’s was this time. back then, there’s only one in Malaysia. (but so glad to have it at most outlets now!) dealing with machines make me stressful. I usually buy my ticket or pay my parking at the counter, where there’s a human. (I’m a lot better with McDonald’s machines nowadays, no worries.) however, this time, as always, was s-t-r-e-s-s-f-u-l. I couldn’t look for the number plates. I asked the lady beside me. she couldn’t help me too. so I decided to press for take-out instead. then I turned over to tell her my decision after the conversation stopped like two minutes ago. 🤦🏻‍♀️

spoiler alert: I got my McDonald’s fine and sat alone at the bar facing the street. now, eating alone wasn’t anything new to me. I did that half the time in Malaysia. but somehow, maybe it was because of the foreign place, or maybe it was my damn luggage (emotional baggage, perhaps?), this was different. the internet probably wants you to think that, “oh, look at this lucky girl, enjoying her solo trip!.” but truth be told, most of the time when I ate alone during my travels, it was, “oh, look at this poor girl, with no one together.” that was my first of many times feeling lonely during the entire trip.

I didn’t want to head back just after a McMiserable. so I decided to check DUMBO out. York Station was worse than Court Square. but the tunnel has this feel that somehow attracted me. those white tiles, dirty floors. mmm. *slurps* (more York Station love in the coming posts)

I got out of the station to a mostly empty place, save for an underground restaurant. there were two touristy looking women who got down from the same train and they seemed just as lost as me. I wondered if I should ask them if I could tag along if they’re heading to the same destination. but then, if the situation was reversed, I would be scared af when someone approached me like that, at night, in an empty neighbourhood like this. so I let it slide, plus they went this way that I think… is… not… DUMBO?

anyway, I just picked any one side of the street that I thought will lead to DUMBO at this cross street. pure guesswork. guess what? it didn’t lead me to DUMBO at all. it did, however, lead me to one end of the Manhattan bridge. so I thought, fuck it, I’m here, what am I gonna do? go back to the train station? might as well walk the bridge and take a look at NYC at night, right?

this… unfortunately… was taken on another day.

this… unfortunately… was taken on another day.

it was a dumb + crazy decision. the kind that would make a story of a lifetime. so, what’s the story you ask? the story was I walked the entire bridge, the whole 2KMs of it, alone, at night. it was SCARY AS FUCK. as I later told my friend, “it was scary when I was alone on the bridge and there wasn’t anyone. it was even scarier when there’s another person on the bridge. ‘cause I don’t know if they’re gonna rob me or what.”

why did I finish it if I’d known it was scary from the beginning? it’s just the same as how you keep giving in to someone. you keep giving in, keep giving in until there’s no point of return.

I got on the bridge, walked a bit, saw nothing. maybe if I walk a little more there will be something? once I see something I’m just gonna head back where I entered. I saw some buildings. not impressed, I walked more. hmm, I don’t think I can see the entrance now. then, I saw the East River. I turned back. I think I’m nearer to the other end than to this end now (fact check: I WAS NOT), might as well keep walking. then I saw the Brooklyn Bridge and felt envious for whoever who owned this beautiful, chill balcony with this view that I’m seeing. now that I can see the Brooklyn Bridge, I’m somewhere in the middle of Manhattan Bridge… right? (fact check: NO) so I kept walking, thinking that it wouldn’t take me long to reach the other end. at one point it got so frightening I wanted to FaceTime my friend just so we could “walk” together just in case anything happened to me. the scariest part was the end of the bridge but I was so glad I was over it.

so after walking the Manhattan Bridge, what’s my thought on it? every once in a while, there’s the strong tremble on the bridge from the passing trains. there’s an old couple walking a few hundred meters ahead of me. I tried not to lose them, but at the same time kept a distance to not creep them out. occasionally there would be bikers and joggers, and group of friends chatting and laughing. how do I put it? it’s a terrifying and lonely walk if you do it alone, but contrastingly, it’s a charming, romantic walk if you do it with your lover, and it’s a fun walk if you do it with friends. bring your camera along. someone tore down some parts of the fence so you could take pictures of the entire Brooklyn Bridge.

I got out and into a part of Chinatown (only guessed but didn’t know it was Chinatown for sure until March 6, 2019, as I’m writing this and did some fact check). at that point, I was so frightened that I didn’t register my surrounding much anymore. all I’d wanted to do was to find a subway station and get the hell home. I walked past fruit stalls, I walked past clubs, I walked past Rich Kids of Instagram getting out of chauffeured cars, I wondered if any of them has a spam account that followed me on Instagram, I wondered if their parents are stinky rich or they’re in fact struggling at a food stall and I couldn’t help but felt a little sad for the parents.

I got back fine. I couldn’t remember much from the trip but decided to not stay out that late anymore as I settle into slumberland.