New Englishman in New York

A month ago he was running a school in China, now he's trying to get a visa to live in New York legally. First thing he does? Try and buy a toilet brush to scrub all the bullshit away.
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I'm 26 and unemployed. My girlfriend is American. I'm not. I'm British. English. Foreigner. An alien.

I'm attempting to move to America. Indefinitely. I've got 90 legal days to wangle a job/course/visa.

I'm fucked. I know I'm fucked. My family do. My mates do. My girlfriend does. But like when you burn the toast, yer just have to go through and eat it.

I met my girlfriend in China. I lived there for two and half years. Teaching English with the other mentalists and people who can't hold onto normal life. I ran a school of 600 kids just 2 months ago. Had my own office. Managed people many years older than me. It looked good on paper/facebook.

We decided to leave. Her visa ran out. Our time in china ran out. So we chose New York. A bad choice.

The immigration situation is insurmountable. Only the wealthy can survive. Only in America. American dream. Land of the free. It's huge Bollocks.

But I'm gonna have to try and work through it. I've got an apartment I can't afford. Unfurnished. Sharing that with my girlfriend. She's unemployed currently.

So yeah. That's the situation. Day 1. 89 to go. Project Raphael.

So i’m just gonna run you through the people I interact with in NYC. The strangers. The people who play the supporting actors and extras in your life movie. You rarely know their names, you rarely remember them. But they play a part.

On the plane there is a fella sat in next to me. About 30 odd years old. Red sweater. He had a falling out with the lady on check in, all I heard was " Sir we are no longer doing complimentary upgrades" he was annoyed but she batted him away. I don't think it was the first time at the desk that day. I've written him off as a wanker. He ended up sat next to me. Straight on his Blackberry. Facebook. Naturally I tried to read a bit over his shoulder. He was writing a message "I'm coming through your city today..." I guess it's some sort of situation where he is trying to hook up with some girl. Then he asks me

"What time do we get into New York?"

"10.59" a bit specific but maybe I was trying to impress this fella. He is probably in finance. He might appreciate my eye for detail.

"AM or PM?"

A basic error on my part. Considering he is American I'd presumed...


And that was that. I wasn't expecting a hand job but “thanks” would be normal. Although I did say "you're welcome" in my head.

A few minutes later. A very friendly fella who from the corner of my eye was a Rastafarian but on closer inspection was a scruffy orthodox Jew asked the man if he would swap seats so he could be near his wife and child.

"The immigration situation is insurmountable. Only the wealthy can survive. Only in America. American dream. Land of the free. It's huge Bollocks."

The wanker paused. Looked at the seat in question and asked "Can I recline?"

The polite man squirmed. He knew he had been rumbled. "No..."

The wanker squirmed. He must bloody love to recline.

The polite man, sensing this, backed down and went to sit in the non reclining chair. Could I have got involved? Yes. Did I? No.

Turns out the wanker was in the wrong seat. Turns out he supposed to be in the seat in front of me. 7 hour flight. He never reclined.

So the steward brings his replacement. Naturally the dream is someone famous or a fit girl. I got a 90 year old from Bangladesh. Full get up. Red spot on her head. Mad clothes. Specialised dietary meals, which annoyingly come out before mine. Can't speak English. She waves off a customs card. I'd like to see how the rude immigration knobheads handle that.

What she does do is cough. The sort of cough you only hear at death. After every fit I look expecting blood dripping from her mouth. "I hope she doesn't die" I think. I then run through the scenario thinking only of how much sympathy I could get. “How was your day?” “Terrible, a lovely old lady I was sat next to on the place died in my arm (rest)” “Oh how terrible”. I’d be the man everyone felt sympathy for. Awful man. We share a few smiles. She's pretty nimble. Has her feet up on the chair crossed. I point to this ability to do yoga. Baseless.

Flight lands, smattering of applause. Well done for not killing us.

Steam through customs. Rude as ever.

Overtip the taxi man. Classic panic.

Next day I’m at Bloomingdales home supply. I'm fearful to anger the sales assistant. Married. Not sure why I added that but he is indeed married.

My girlfriend has bought some pointless items for the apartment. Dessert plates were the first purchase. Along with three pillows. Any sane person knows that Bloomingdales is the only place to buy pillows. I’m not sure other stores even sell them... All her reasoning. Considering we don’t have a bed, curtains or money these items seem slightly superfluous.

She somehow has been granted access to the store room to find the items. I stand next to the sales assistant.

I'm looking for the knowing wink from the man. We’re all in this together. It doesn't come. Two men together and he doesn’t take it. No small talk.

Then his friend turns up. The floodgates open. He begins the standard slagging off a co worker at work conversation. We’ve all been there, happens across the globe. Same complaint.

“I ain’t even had no lunch, but Bill’s gone off again”

“5 says in a row” “You think that's fair Mike?” “Nothing's fair” I wonder what brought Mike to really believe this terrifyingly depressing thought.

You get the feeling this conversation has been said before. Anywhere, everywhere in the world. The same words. The same annoyance. The same non conclusion. Just take it out on themselves. He seemed crestfallen though. A broken and battered man. Life was the death of him.

I was scared when my girlfriend asked him to put all the stuff back as we ran out of time.

He didn't mind. Smiling away at us. Scowling and then moaning to his mate. I wonder what anger he has when he is smiling at the customer?

Walking by Times Square waiting for my girlfriend to come out of an interview. A charity donor fella spots me. One of the cool young ones, not the old grandma types. He has his hand out for a “street handshake”. This is it. I'm walking towards him, I have to give him the best bloody street greeting possible. Hands meet. Good sound. Lean in. Pat on back. Executed. To perfection. I'm a happy man, then I realise.

Shit. I've got talk to this fella now. I just do the standard mumbled “sorry”. I realise this is feeble so turn and tell him I haven’t got any money. A fair reason I think.

He says "Come on man. My tuition fees cost 53 thousand dollars I've got loans coming out of my ass.”

I tell him I'm thinking something similar. Going to grad school. I get a sudden feeling of good and ask if he needs volunteers. He points to the website address and that's it. We shake again. Standard British and I wish him well. I'm considering graduate school as an option. I knew it was costly but this confused me further. Nice fella. My girlfriend is still in the interview and does get the job. I have 40 mins to spare so I hide behind a pillar from the guy and wait desperately for a piss.

We go to a rooftop party. Girlfriend's friend. The highlight is a girl who greets her friends with...

“I'm engaged bitches, it's 4 carat” No hello. Just walks through the door and... They all wearily respond, "We know".

I often wonder with people that do that, that its a sign of the largest level of self indulgence. Like people who answer the phone “I’m busy call me back” What if its a life threatening call or someone telling them their grandma has died? The person who bats away the phone call clearly only sees themselves in the world and no one else. As does this girl. I mean we could be in the middle of a speech or a heart attack, but to be fair it was a nice ring.

Every sentence from then on screams "Look at me”. “Listen to me”. She's lovely to me though. Questions, I mean she doesn’t listen to the answers but who does these days? I get some comments on the British accent. Never quite sure how to follow. I used to say "Do you want me to run through the alphabet?" but that's a bit of an odd thing to say so I just grimace and hope they don't do a British accent. They always do...bitches.

"The person who bats away the phone call clearly only sees themselves in the world and no one else. As does this girl. I mean we could be in the middle of a speech or a heart attack, but to be fair it was a nice ring."

We are shopping for household items. My girlfriend hasn’t seen many household items before. We come from pretty different backgrounds. I explain to her what a wok is. She then goes to the griddle pan section and says “ Wow, Tom, look at all the woks.”

In the bathroom part. I pick up a toilet brush. An essential household item. It’s brown, goes with the colour of the house. She will be impressed.

She wanders over “That’s cute. What's it for?” “Wiping shit off the toilet.” “Oh gross. No. You can use the bathroom at a restaurant.”

People who work at the store must get a bonus if they have you choose delivery. They all keep suggesting it. We finally accept. I wait with the delivery guy, as my girlfriend continues to shop. She is a good little consumer. A stimulus package made flesh. I do a “I hope she stops shopping gag”. He smiles but his eyes are glazing over. He's heard it before. I've said it before. Were going through the motions. He sets us up with home delivery. Then overrules me when I say I don't need another cart. He’s right.

Filling in that form. We do that classic what's the date question and pause. None of us know. I think when you don't know the date it means your life is pretty worthless. If you don't know the date you are either a retired millionaire or a worthless unemployed person. Again I fall into the second category.

We've definitely overspent.