Centre of the Universe
“Cute kid. What’s wrong with his head?”
What’s wrong with yours?… I want to answer this man on a bike, asking something like that, in that tone, of a mother? Has he no idea what tiger’s wrath lurks beneath the calmest mother’s exterior should anyone suggest their cubs might be less than utterly perfect in every way? Shirking physical violence, I offer an encyclopaedic description of his cradle cap instead.
It is a fact, universally acknowledged, that New Yorkers are not backwards in coming forwards. No Londoner would have felt comfortable showing they had noticed Junior, let alone comment on his appearance. Nor soothed him in his stroller whilst mum went to the torture, sorry, threading salon, to have her eyebrows tamed by an Indian lady who kept leaving between hairs to change the tune on her ipod. In the end she settles for Bombay’s answer to Phil Collins, thought I had preferred the previous Bollywood love songs myself. Whilst at her mercy (it’s never a great sign when your threader has more hairs on her chin than you have eyebrows) not one, but two of the victims waiting in line go to Junior as he squirms trying to find sleep. Both women carefully reach for his soother that had fallen out of his mouth and place it gently back in. So touched was I by their simple gestures I could barely whisper out a thank you. Besides, my bearded beauty was mid tear, sorry, pluck. Londoner’s reserve would strangulate their instinct to do the same.
I return the gesture by offering directions to some Americans navigating the city. Underestimate not, the thrill of finally understanding the subway map, let alone being able to help another. I swagger around underground now, changing trains here and there, Junior strapped to my chest in one of those baby carrying contraptions that earth-mums make look effortless but leave me feeling like I’m pregnant again only carrying triplets. I wear the expression well because every time I get on a carriage four or five people offer me their seat.
Not so at the medieval festival where seats for the jousting contest were fought for, baby or no. Boy, dressed as a demented pirate-knight, watches, wrapped, beside his mates, till the horses ad lib and buck off two riders dressed as ye olde knights. The “e”s were sprinkled all over; on Ye Old”e” Grill”e” stall and that medieval tradition of Ye Old”e” Fairi”e” face painting. Folk swarm the local park dressed as vikings, pirates and every goth fashion between. The bleechers erupt into crazed cheers when the master of ceremonies declares the jousting to be a precursor to Obama’s victory. He goes on to pronounce NYC kids to have the best advantage for growing up in the best city in the world, at the, in his words, “centre of the universe” then cites New Yorkers to be the grittiest, funniest, most courageous people on the planet. No arguments here, though the universe argument sits a little askew, seeing as we don’t even know what that is exactly – a true New Yorker’s wry humour no doubt.
The centres of MY universe now snore in syncopation. One with mosquito bites polka-dotting his face, the other enjoying his new crib. He’s finally moved out of his (open) drawer bed – husband sited the fish bowl effect, so we’ve given him more space to grow. I look on, wondering if they’re destined to be one of those lucky New Yorker kids after all.
Sara Alexander and her husband Cory English (formerly of Walworth NY) are actors, who met in the London acting community. They live in London, with their two children, but are currently living in New York, while Cory performs in the Broadway show “Chicago”.