Jessica does not remember having been to New York before, so it’s like a brand-new experience to her. We get in the cab and I’m exclaiming, “Look! See how tall the buildings are!” and she is very cool and blasé, obviously wishing I would act less like a tourist, so I subside into my seat, knowing that she will find her own way of appreciating New York, and she does so almost immediately when the cab driver lays on the horn and makes an obscene gesture as he merges onto the highway.
“Why did he do that?” Jessica says in her loud voice and I wince and try to figure out how to respond, and then the cab driver tells her, “These are crazy people!”
“The other drivers?” she inquires.
“Why are they crazy?”
“They are supposed to stop! Do they stop? No. They never stop.”
“And you don’t like that.”
He seems to think he has found a sympathetic ear, and he has, so he pours out his troubles to Jessica, who keeps saying, “Really?” and “What makes you say that?” and I feel that she should charge him for a therapy session by the time he pulls up in front of the hotel.
“Enjoy New York,” he says grumpily and Jessica says, radiant, joyful, “Oh, we are not staying in New York! We are going to Italy!”
“Italy!” he exclaims. “Italy! Oh the food. It’s cold this time of year, but the food!” And about ten minutes later, after advising us of all the best places to eat and the meals we should order there, he lets us out of the cab.
Jessica’s conversation doesn’t abate as we drop off our luggage and walk down the street to find something to eat. I inadvertently kick a can that’s been tossed in the street and she watches with interest.
“Did you kick that can?”
“Yes, I did.”
“Why did you kick that can?”
“I didn’t mean to.”
“You just kicked it.”
After a long day of travel, I am tired but she is wound up. For me, the great gift of traveling is to be not here. To just be someplace else for a while. And also, someone else feeds me. Traveling, especially with Jessica, does not free me from problems, it just gives me different ones to tackle.
For Jessica, travel is the people; they give her energy. People deplete me. I’m not sure I even like to travel, I just know I need to do it now and then. Jessica would be perfectly happy if we never left home, as long as she had someone to talk to.
“I like New York,” Jessica says, taking a deep breath, inhaling it all in. “You like New York, too, don’t you?”
“Why don’t you live here?”
“I can’t breathe here after a while.”
She looks up at the tall buildings and nods. “You can’t see enough of the sky. You can’t see any stars.”
“That’s why I can’t live here,” I say. “You can’t see a single star in the sky.”