Chapter Fourteen

OK, so we’ve just had our first row.

But that’s fine. All couples have them. It’s perfectly normal.

In fact, it’s not a bad thing at all. It’s a good thing, I tell myself firmly. Arguing is healthy. It means we’re a proper couple. I once read in a magazine that it’s a really positive sign for the relationship.

Oh, who the fuck am I kidding?

It’s horrible. I feel terrible.

An hour or so later I’m striding down Fifth Avenue trying to make sense of this sudden turn of events. Having finished clearing up the kitchen until there wasn’t a splash of beetroot or a speck of green pulp left, and the marble worktop was spotless, I showered, dressed, then left the apartment. I didn’t even hang around to dry my hair, I muse, glancing at my reflection in the windows of a store.

And immediately wishing I hadn’t. My fringe has already gone ping! in the heat and I’ve got bits sticking out all over. And it’s true. It does kind of look purple. Dismayed, I sigh miserably and look quickly away.

Nate didn’t even say goodbye. He was on the phone when I left and he just nodded. And it wasn’t a nice friendly ‘Love you, babe’ nod – it was a dismissive ‘Whatever’ nod. I’ve never really thought much about nods until that moment. I’d always assumed that one nod was pretty much the same as another. Until then. And trust me, that was not the kind of nod that is positive in a relationship.

Fighting back angry tears, I continue stalking down Fifth Avenue. Normally I’d be looking in all the glossy shops, revelling in a bit of window shopping and thinking, Look at me, I’m in New York! But now they barely merit a glance. Instead I’m just vacantly staring down at the chewing-gum-littered pavement, mulling over the argument in my head and thinking, Please don’t look at me. I’ve just had an argument with my boyfriend and I think I might start crying at any moment.

No, you won’t, Lucy, I tell myself sharply. You’re angry, remember, and you need to stay angry.

Roughly wiping my eyes, I take a few deep breaths. Nate was behaving like such a smug, patronising, sanctimonious prat. Standing there lecturing me while he was wearing those criminal pineapple boxer shorts! Clumsy indeed! It was all that machine’s fault.

Still, perhaps I shouldn’t have left the lid off, I reflect, feeling a seed of doubt. I try to ignore it and keep walking, but it quickly grows into a prickle of regret. I mean, that was my fault. I push it briskly out of my mind, but it’s rapidly turning into guilt. God, the kitchen was a right old mess.

In fact, by the time I’ve reached the edge of the park, all I can feel is full-blown remorse. I pause at the entrance and rest against the railings. I’m completely to blame. If I wasn’t so bloody useless and pig-headed, we’d be looking forward to enjoying a lovely Saturday together picnicking in the park.

Instead I’m standing here on my own, looking at all the other couples on the grass doing just that, I think miserably.

I’m not sure how long I would have remained there, feeling sorry for myself, if someone hadn’t walked past sipping a coffee. Catching a whiff, my taste buds immediately spring into action.

No wonder I’m feeling miserable, I realise, catching sight of a Starbucks across the street and dashing off in its direction. I haven’t had my morning coffee. In fact, this whole week I’ve gone without, as I’ve been staying at Nate’s and he doesn’t drink it. I haven’t felt any better, though. In fact, quite frankly, I’ve had a nagging headache all week. Nate says that’s because I’m addicted caffeine and I’m going through withdrawal, that I just have to persevere and I’ll feel like a new me.

Which is fair enough. Except, the thing is, I don’t really want to feel like a new me. I want to feel like the old me who used to drink coffee and didn’t have a nagging headache.

‘A latte with two extra shots, please,’ I say, smiling broadly at the woman behind the counter. I’ve come to the conclusion there are two types of people in this world: those who drink coffee and those who don’t. And I’m not sure you can ever put the two together, I reflect, as she taps in my order.

On second thoughts . . . I feel a secret twinge of defiance. ‘Make it three shots.’

Fifteen minutes later and I’m walking down the street sipping my coffee. I feel loads better. The sun is shining, it’s a beautiful day, and I don’t have to go to work.

OK, so now what?

It’s still early and I can feel the whole day stretching ahead of me. I could go home, but Robyn’s at her drumming circle and I don’t feel much like sitting in an empty apartment: me, Simon and Jenny, and piles of my hand-washing. I could call my sister, but she’ll either be at the gym or the office, or both. Or I could . . .

I draw a blank.

This is ridiculous. I’m in New York! The Big Apple! The city that never sleeps! There’s masses to do. I’ve been so busy since I arrived that I haven’t got round to doing any of the real touristy stuff yet. I could go up the Empire State, take a boat ride past the Statue of Liberty, go to Times Square.

All the things I wanted to do with Nate.

Suddenly my defiance takes a bit of a dip and for a split second I think about calling him, or maybe texting him. Then change my mind. I know, perhaps he’s texted me. Perhaps I just didn’t hear it beep. Hope flickers and I quickly tug out my phone and glance at the screen.

Nope. No text message. No missed call. No nothing.

For a moment I stare at my phone feeling upset. Then impulsively I turn it off. Otherwise I’ll just keep checking it all day. Shoving it firmly in my bag, I take a big gulp of coffee. I need to do something that will cheer me up. Like brown-paper packages tied up with string did for Julie Andrews. Only in my case my favourite thing’s not raindrops on roses; it’s art galleries. As soon as I walk through the door, it’s impossible to feel sad or depressed. Surrounded by all those ideas, all that imagination, all that creativity, my problems seem to fall away and I lose myself. It’s like being a kid again.

When I was living in London, I lost count of the number of hours, days, weeks probably that I spent at the National, the Portrait Gallery and Tate Modern. And before that, growing up in Manchester, the city’s Art Gallery was my refuge as a teenager. Art galleries are for me what Manolo Blahniks are for Carrie Bradshaw. I go there when I’m happy and when I’m sad. When I’m feeling lonely or I want to be alone. Not to mention that they’re the perfect heartbreak cure. Forget Bridget Jones and her Chardonnay, give me a Rothko any day.

Like today, I suddenly decide, feeling galvanised. Today is the perfect day to lose myself in a gallery, and where better than here in New York? The city is stuffed full of them. I’ve already visited quite a few since I’ve been here, but I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface. Plus I was saving the best until last: the Museum of Modern Art is arguably the best modern art gallery in the world.

I feel a buzz of excitement. Yes, that’s what I’ll do. Great idea! Invigorated, I start striding off. Then a thought hits me: I have absolutely no clue where I’m going.        

I stop dead in the middle of the pavement and rummage around in my handbag. Digging out my pocket tourist guide, I look up the address: ‘11 West 53rd Street, between  Fifth and Sixth Avenues.’ OK, well, that’s easy.

Sort of.

I pause uncertainly. I think it’s that way . . . but then it could be that way . . . or even that way. Shit. I think about doing my ‘Never Eat Shredded Wheat’ rhyme, then think again. Well, look where that got me last time.

‘Spare any change?’

A voice next to me interrupts my thoughts and I glance sideways and see a homeless man sitting on a piece of cardboard, drinking a beer. He holds out a tattered old polystyrene cup, containing a few quarters.

‘Oh, yes, of course . . .’ Emptying my pockets, I find a couple of dollar bills and stick them in his cup. ‘By the way, would you know the way to the Museum of Modern Art?’

OK, I know it’s a long shot, but still.

He peers at me from underneath his shaggy eyebrows, then grunts, ‘You mean the MoMA?’

‘Oh, erm . . . yeah, the MoMA.’

That will teach you to judge, Lucy Hemmingway.

‘Let me see . . .’ He scratches his long, bedraggled beard.

‘Is it that way?’ I ask hopefully, pointing across the street.

He looks at me as if I’m slightly barmy. ‘No, that way,’ he rasps, and points in a completely different direction. ‘Couple of blocks, it’s on your right.’

‘Brilliant. Thanks.’ I grin.

‘No problem.’ He nods, then calls after me, ‘Hey, lady.’

Walking down the street, I turn round. Taking a swig of beer, he flashes me a toothless smile.

‘Check out the Rothkos. They’re incredible.’


That’s pretty much all I can think from the moment I spot the three huge red banners emblazoned with ‘MoMA’ fluttering in the summer breeze. Wow. To walking into the striking modern glass building, with its amazing light-filled lobby, huge open-plan staircase and walls made entirely of windows. Wow. To the five floors filled with paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs . . . and all kinds of amazing things. Wow. It’s like being in another world. As soon I step from the bustling street outside into the cool white open spaces inside, it’s like stepping into Narnia. A world where time stands still and nothing else matters.

Not even rows with your boyfriend.

I spend the rest of the day wandering from room to room just drinking it all in. One room is completely round and holds a circular light-changing exhibit that you step inside to watch the ever-changing colours. It’s beautiful, and fun, and it makes me laugh to see even a baby in a pushchair enjoying it, his eyes filled with wonder as the blues turn to green, turn to yellow, turn to red, and then letting out a loud approving gurgle.

Another room is entirely covered in scribbled cartoons, another with soft white feathers, another with an entire city made out of recycled cans. Then there are all the paintings: the Matisses, Pollocks, Dalís, Rothkos . . . I stop in front of one and smile. The homeless guy was right. They are incredible.

Lost in my own world, I lose track of time, until suddenly I look up and notice how busy it’s become. When I arrived, it had just opened and it was empty, but now there are all kinds of people. Crowds of schoolkids, a little old lady, some mothers with their babies, a punk with his Mohawk, a gaggle of Japanese tourists with their obligatory cameras, a couple of students sketching . . .

Then there’s him again.

The gallery crasher.

I stop dead. What’s he doing here? There’s no free food or booze. I watch him for a moment, trying to work out what he’s doing, when unexpectedly he turns round and sees me, and looks right at me.


I dive behind a large sculpture of two cubes balancing on top of each other, but it’s too late.

‘Hey, it’s you again.’

I pretend I haven’t heard him and focus on examining the sculpture. Like I’m so engrossed in this amazing piece of artwork I haven’t heard him. Hopefully he’ll just go away.

He comes right up to me and prods me.

Or maybe not.

‘Excuse me?’ I turn and look at him, affronted. He’s wearing the same baseball cap and the same jeans with the two big rips on the knees, but he’s switched his T-shirt from the green one to a plain white V-neck.

Not that I really noticed what he was wearing last night or anything.

‘From the gallery last night. You threw me out.’

‘Really?’ I frown and peer at him as if I haven’t a clue who he is, then pretend to do a sort of slow register. ‘Oh, yeah . . .’

Honestly, my acting is dreadful. Annie was my only good role.

‘Well, you can’t throw me out this time.’ He grins, and digging in the pocket of his jeans, he waggles a ticket at me.

‘You bought a ticket to get in here?’ I stare at it for a moment. Sure enough it looks real. ‘You spent twenty dollars to get into an art gallery?’

I’m impressed. Maybe I got him wrong. Maybe he’s not all about the freebies.

‘I didn’t say I bought a ticket,’ he corrects. ‘I said I had a ticket.’

‘You didn’t pay for it?’

‘No, it was free. A friend gave it to me.’

‘Aha, I should have known,’ I reply, it suddenly making sense. ‘You know there isn’t any free food or drink here,’ I can’t help adding.

He looks slightly insulted. ‘I’m not just after free food and drink.’

‘What, you’ve actually come to look at some art?’ I say sarcastically.

‘Actually, no. I came for the free films.’

‘Free films?’ For a moment I think he’s got the wrong place.

‘There’s a special Tim Burton exhibition. They’re showing some of his earlier work. You know, like Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, Big Fish . . .’

I’m looking at him aghast. ‘You came here to watch movies for free?’

‘Not just any movies,’ he says, sounding offended. ‘From one of the greatest directors. I mean, the man’s a genius, the way he shoots, his camerawork, the way he explores film.’

‘But this is the MoMA,’ I gasp.

‘So?’ He shrugs.

‘So you’re telling me you haven’t even so much as looked at Dalí, or Rothko, or Pollock.’

He stares at me blankly.

‘They’re artists,’ I deadpan.

‘Oh, that figures.’ He smiles sheepishly. ‘Well, seeing as you know so much about them, why don’t you be my tour guide?’

His request catches me by surprise. It feels almost like a dare.

‘And if I don’t?’

‘I’ll probably go home, catch up on some shut-eye.’ He yawns and stretches.

I waver. Part of me wants him to leave. I’m having a nice time on my own, and the last thing I need right now is having to show him around. Another part of me, however, can’t let him leave without looking at any of the wonderful paintings. It would be a crime.

Let’s make this clear, though, that’s the only reason. It’s got nothing to do with his strange mixture of geekiness and cockiness. Or the way he’s kind of intriguing. Or those huge blue eyes of his with the crazy long eyelashes.

This is just about art. End of. Period.

‘OK, follow me.’

‘This is called The Persistence of Memory and is his most famous surrealistic work, as it introduced the image of the melting watches, which symbolise the irrelevance of time.’

Standing in front of the painting by Salvador Dalí, I turn to my eager student. Otherwise known as Adam, he reminded me, in case I’d forgotten.

I hadn’t.

‘Wow, pretty impressive.’

‘I know, it’s amazing, isn’t it?’ I say, my eyes flashing.

‘You really love this stuff, huh?’

I feel my cheeks flush with embarrassment. ‘OK, I admit, sometimes I can get a bit carried away.’

‘A bit?’ He grins.

I smile sheepishly.

‘So how come you know so much about art?’

‘It’s something I’ve always loved, ever since I was little and I used to finger-paint. My choice of canvas back then was my parents’ living-room walls.’ I grin at the memory.

‘So did you go to art college?’

I nod. ‘I was always terrible at school, flunked all my exams except for art, but college was different. I started painting full-time and it was amazing. For once I was doing something I was good at, something I understood, you know?’

‘I know.’ He nods in agreement. ‘So what happened after college?’

‘I moved to London to be a painter, but that didn’t work out, so I got a job in a gallery,’ I say blithely.

‘But you don’t miss it? Painting, I mean.’

‘Every day,’ I say quietly, before I can stop myself. ‘It all worked out for the best, though,’ I add quickly, and yet even while I’m saying it, I feel as if I’m trying to convince him. Or is it, in fact, me?

I look across at Adam. He’s studying me hard, an expression of thoughtfulness on his face, and feeling self-conscious, I suggest brightly, ‘Why don’t we go look at some Rothkos,’ and start moving briskly away from the Dalí.

‘You know, you should follow your passion. If your heart’s in painting, you’ll never be happy just working in a gallery.’

I feel a stab of defensiveness. ‘It’s not “just working in a gallery”,’ I reply shortly. ‘I happen to love my job.’

‘I know, I didn’t mean . . .’ he begins apologising. ‘Look, I’m sorry, I guess I overstepped the mark.’

Now it’s my turn to apologise. ‘Oh, no, don’t be silly.’ I shake my head. ‘It’s me. I’m just being oversensitive.’ I smile awkwardly. ‘Anyway, I still can’t believe you hadn’t looked at any art,’ I say, flicking the focus back on to him.

‘Film’s art,’ he replies evenly.

It brings me up short. I hadn’t thought about it like that. ‘So are you a big film buff?’

‘Just a little.’ He smiles. ‘I’m a film student at NYU.’

As we move into the next room, I shoot him a sideways glance. ‘Really? Gosh, that sounds interesting.’

‘It is, very.’ He pauses for a beat. ‘I love it there.’

‘Wow.’ I look at him with newfound intrigue, then peer at him quizzically. ‘Aren’t you a little old to be a student?’ I tease.

‘Probably, in the traditional sense.’ He nods. ‘But I figure you’re never too old to learn. That’s when you become old, when you stop being fascinated by things, when you stop wanting to learn and explore . . .’

As he starts talking, his face becomes animated and I’m suddenly reminded of someone.

‘ . . . especially when it’s something you have a great passion for, and for me that’s film.’ His face scrunches into a grin. ‘I did it the opposite way round to you. I went straight from college into a job working on a magazine. I did the film reviews. It was a really good job. I got to see all the new movies, go to all the press junkets, interview the actors. I still do a lot of freelance stuff for them now. Just recently I did an on-camera interview for their website with Angelina.’

‘You did not!’

‘See, that got your attention, didn’t it?’ He laughs. ‘No, not really. It was an interview with this amazing new Mexican director, but somehow I didn’t think that would have the same effect.’

‘It might have,’ I protest, pretending to be offended.

‘Are you interested in film?’ He looks at me with interest.

‘Of course. Everyone likes films.’

‘So who’s your favourite director?’

I pause. ‘Um . . .’ My mind’s blank. I don’t know the names of any directors, do I? Oh God, I must do. Quick, think of one. ‘Scorsese,’ I blurt. It’s the first director’s name that comes into my head. It’s the only one.

‘Wow, really?’ He looks impressed. ‘I would never have put you down as a Scorsese kind of girl.’

I feel both relieved and unexpectedly pleased.

‘Which film do you think is his best work?’

‘Well . . . um . . . there’s so much work to choose from,’ I say vaguely. ‘I mean, it’s hard to pick a favourite . . .’ I’m hoping I can trail off and leave it unclear, but he’s still looking at me, his face filled with interest.

He’s waiting for an answer.

Oh crap.

Frantically I rack the part of my brain that has ‘Films’ written on it, but it’s filled with sappy rom-coms starring Jennifer Aniston, and some really bad foreign-language films a long-forgotten ex used to make me watch. OK, forget that, try to do that association thing. Scorsese’s a man. He’s Italian . . .

The Godfather!’ I say triumphantly. See! I knew I knew it.

‘That’s Coppola,’ says Adam, with a flash of amusement.

My triumph is short-lived. ‘Oh, is it?’ I am beyond embarrassed.

‘But I can see how you thought it was. Italian, Mafia, violence . . .’ He’s talking earnestly, but his mouth is twitching. ‘I mean, it’s kind of easy to get two of the greatest directors in the world mixed up.’

‘OK, OK.’ I smile ruefully. ‘I know I deserve it for giving you a hard time about art, but I know nothing about film, apart from renting DVDs and going to the movies. Even then I’m happy to see whatever. I’m usually more interested in the popcorn.’

‘Maybe we should trade.’

I glance at him quizzically.

‘You teach me about art and I’ll teach you about film.’

‘Well, I don’t know about that . . .’

‘OK, so tell me, what’s your favourite film?’

‘Oh, that’s easy.’ I grin. ‘Anything with Daniel Craig in it.’

He throws me a look of horror. ‘You’ve got to be joking! That’s your criteria for going to see a film? If it stars Daniel Craig? Who, by the way, is not a great actor. The last Bond was pretty dismal.’

‘I’m not looking at his acting.’ I smile and Adam rolls his eyes in despair.

Taking off his baseball cap, his shock of black hair springs out. He scratches his head in disbelief. ‘So let me get this straight. You haven’t seen any of the classics. What about Annie Hall, The Thin Red Line, anything by the Coen brothers . . .?’

I’m looking at him blankly.

‘Jeez, I’m going to have my work cut out for me.’

‘You?’ I say with indignation. ‘What about me? What do you know about Cubism, conceptual art, Impressionism . . .?’

Now it’s his turn to look blank.

There’s a pause and then we both break into a smile. ‘OK, deal.’ I nod.

‘Deal.’ He grins as we shake hands.

‘So now I’ve given you your first art lesson, when do I start to learn about film?’ I ask.

‘When are you free next week?’ He looks at me eagerly. ‘I’ll take you to a great movie, one of my favourites. But the deal is, you have to get the popcorn.’

He laughs and smiles at me, but I pause. Put like that, it sounds like we’re going a date, and for a moment I consider telling him I have a boyfriend. That just makes me look really arrogant, though. Like I think he fancies me, which I don’t, obviously.

‘Actually, I’m not sure,’ I reply.

Well, that’s the honest answer, isn’t it? I’m not sure. I was planning on spending most of my free time with Nate, but then we had the row.

The row. Suddenly I realise I haven’t thought about it all day. Followed by another thought. I haven’t thought about Nate all day either.

‘In other words, you’ve got a boyfriend.’ He smiles and I blush beetroot.

‘Sort of,’ I hear myself saying before I can stop myself.

Sort of? Er, hang on a minute, Lucy. This is Nate, the love of your life, you’re sort of talking about. Since when did he become your sort-of boyfriend?

I feel a twinge of surprise and guilt, all mixed up together. I quickly try to backtrack.

‘What I meant to say—’

My voice is suddenly drowned out by a wailing siren and a loud announcement saying the gallery is closing. Already? I glance at my watch in shock. The day has flown by.

‘Well, I better rush,’ says Adam, interrupting my thoughts.

‘Oh, yeah . . . me too.’ I nod, but it’s as if the easy mood has been broken by an awkwardness that wasn’t there before.


‘Um . . . bye,’ I murmur.

He strides away across the gallery. I watch as he turns briefly and waves, then disappears. And suddenly it hits me.

I know who he reminded me of back there. It was me.

You're the One That I Don't Want