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One: because it really is just like the movies, and two: because Americans only watch American films, so they don’t realise just how cliched they are. His name was Vinnie. He was wearing a porkpie hat. He was a Central Park bike mechanic with a cigarette stuck to his pouty bottom lip and a greasy rag hanging out of his back pocket. Just like in the movies. But best of all he called me “hot tomato,” the tomaydo drawling out across the sticky street like sweet burnt butter, his thick Bronx accent wooing my Australian ears. “Hey hot tomato,” he called after me as I wheeled my freshly hired bike towards the Central Park gates. “Come back at sundown and have a drink with me.” Like every foreigner I was looking for the quintessential tourist experience, and it seemed it had just found me.
I turned him down. I already had plans to watch the sun set from the Empire State Building with my travel partner Liz, an old friend from back home. But even more importantly, I’m queer as fuck. “I knock off at six if you change your mind,” he called out, his yankee optimism irritatingly sanguine. I rolled my eyes and threw my leg over my bike, and headed off through the gates. Liz and I rode round the park for a couple of hours, weaving our bikes through little winding pathways and over wooden bridges that would have been more fitting in a ye olde English village than in the brash new town that New York pretends not to be. We posed with frosty pink ice creams that matched our lips, and then posted the photos all over Facebook. At the Boathouse we cheered our solidarity to workers standing on a picket line who were protesting against pitifully low wages. And then we headed back to the bike hire place to return our trusty steeds. I told Liz I’d meet her at the Empire State Building just on dusk, though the problem was that neither of us had yet figured out which one the Empire State was. New York is full of large important-looking buildings, so we’d been hedging our bets and taking photos of them all. But while I wandered around trying to find a famous bookstore I’d been told was a must-see, I had a change of heart. I had just turned 30. I had also just been dumped. I was embracing my Saturn return by embracing everything that tried to embrace me, and Vinnie had just been sent to test my philosophy. He was forward. He was sexy. And I was ovulating.
Along with turning the big three-oh I’d decided to get myself a baby. Being queer I needed to find a donor, but also being queer I knew very few cis-gendered men. This wasn’t at the forefront of my decision to sidle back to the bike shop at six to meet Vinnie for a drink, but it was definitely loitering there in the back of my mind when after a couple of those fabulous free-pour cocktails that American does so well, he suggested we take a walk in the park. Or rather, a waaal-k, which if I’m honest was probably the deciding factor for me. We didn’t get far. We made it to the boulders right near the entrance that make an appearance in so many famous films, and there in the shadows we lowered ourselves down onto the still-warm rock, I pulled my knickers down, and he tried to go down on me. I pulled him back up by the scruff of his neck, a pissed-off look on my face. That was not what I was there for. The poor sweet clueless boy.
Reader, I fucked him. Or rather he fucked me. Missionary, cowgirl, doggy. Holding on to the low branch of an overhanging tree, and then huddled under his jacket when the bright lights of a copper’s torch swung across the rocks, checking that all was calm and bright. And at some point the condom broke and I became the American movie cliche myself. I told him I was on the pill and that I was clean of STDs, and I ordered him not to stop. The STD part at least was true.
When it was all over I made some poor excuse to take a selfie. Just in case, so I’d have something to show the kid, to make up for the lack of a last name. Then he walked me to the subway and saw me safely to my train. The carriage rattled across the bridge to Brooklyn, a small child and its mother smiling at me across the aisle. I sat there deeply ashamed and slightly hopeful, and even more deeply ashamed about that hope.
Two weeks later, while on a hot date with a woman from San Francisco dykes on bikes, my period arrived. I deleted the selfie with Vinnie—there was nothing to remember after all. I still don’t know which one is the Empire State Building. And I’ve decided I don’t really care.