Twitchhiker | Paul Smith's travel tales from here and there


Day 6 – this is a low

Twitchhiker - Charity: water

Mark and I rolled into bed at the modest time of 1am – three hours of drinking were still available in Manhattan’s bars, but both of us had endured eight hour flights the previous day and our resolve to drink New York dry was lacking. Besides, I needed to be up early; bouncing around cities and continents like Doctor Sam Beckett was playing havoc with my work schedule and I needed to knuckle down.

I struggled awake at 5.30 and rattled away throughout the morning, jealously eyeing the ever-increasing hubbub of the scene outside, wishing I could mingle my way through the streets of Hell’s Kitchen or the fish markets on Chinatown. I did make some progress with my plans for Sunday; I accepted a road trip with Ken Morrill – @yenra – from Frederick to Pittsburgh, with a girl called Lauree – @wordtravelsfast – driving me from DC to Frederick. I’d accepted the offers despite there been no help with accomodation on Sunday night; two Twitter users had offered a place to stay, but both lived in a town called Wheeling an hour outside the city. It was time to see whether I’d luck out and spend my first night sleeping rough.

At lunchtime I escaped my plush three-star prison and walked into Times Square to meet @SusanPortnoy and her friend Zoe at the Brooklyn Diner on 43rd and Broadway, Twitter users who were following my journey and wanted to hear tales of my epic adventure and lack of clean underwear. Perhaps they didn’t want to hear about the last bit, but I told them anyway.

Back to the hotel, back to my desk where I poured my brain through my fingers into the keyboard until the sun slipped away from the city. I received an offer of a flight to hop from Pittsburgh to Chicago on Monday from @Orbitzgal, and with no others offers on the table I snapped her hand off to accept it. Sunday night in Pittsburgh remained a worry, though.

I was meeting with the team from Charity: Water that evening and it was Mark’s birthday the following day, so I hurried to finish my work and joined him at the Pig & Whistle on 3rd Avenue to celebrate. I shouldn’t have bothered; I took up a stool next to Mark at the back of the bar and struggled to stay awake, my eyes barely open and my words slurred. I apologised and returned to the hotel, hoping to get an hours’ sleep before meeting up with Charity: water. I set the alarm on my mobile, placed it on the bedside cabinet, pulled the duvet tight around my neck and passed out a moment later.

The mobile rang. It was Jane. I checked the time: it was 9pm in New York, meaning it was 2am at home.

Something was wrong.

Our seven month old kitten Elly, a black and white rascally runt of fur and mischief with crooked whiskers, had died. She’d began having epileptic fits in December, one every three or four days. She’d been neutered just a month ago and since then the fits had stopped. Last night, she had a seisure, followed by another, then another; they continued for a full hour, and in the end her small and fragile frame wore itself out.

It was unexpected and of course I was upset by it, but listening to Jane sobbing her heart out, that ripped mine clean out my chest. I was fucking about on this idiot adventure, when I should have been there at home to smother her with hugs and hold her hand and figure out the answers to those questions we rarely need to ask, like what you do with the body of a dead kitten at two o’clock on a Saturday morning. I was exhausted and I hated myself and I fell apart. I cried myself dry, apologising over and over again for not being there when she needed me.

I arrived to meet the team from Charity: water 20 minutes late, my face bloated and blotchy. They were preparing an installation at Chelsea markets, due to open with a VIP event on Tuesday. I half-heartedly man-handled yellow jerry cans and balanced precariously on stools, but I really didn’t want to be there. I had another early morning ahead, and needed to pull myself together. I wasn’t even a week into this trip and I was in pieces. I apologised to Scott Harrison, the founder of Charity: water, for my lack of effort, and slunk away into the dark and lonely streets of Manhattan.


8 Comments so far
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Oh god, honey. I am so sorry. This is tough and I wish we could do something for you. I know it’s sound trite, but try to hang in there.

As a cat lover and owner of a couple of strays (and a feeder/carer of a few ferals), the way to look a Elly’s short life is this: she had someone who loved her for the few months she was here. She was fed, loved, cared for, kept warm, snuggled with, and now she’ll have someone who’ll miss her.

I’ve gone through what Jane went through. My own Merry died of seizures and it’s a tough experience to go through. I felt so helpless and all I could do was pet her and comfort her. I still miss her. However, I felt a sense of peace when she finally let go.

Hugs to you and to Jane. You’re in my prayers.

Comment by Lee

Keep your chin up mate!

Comment by windermerelodge

I’m really sorry to hear that mate. As a cat lover myself I can completely understand how awful it feels when a pet leaves us, and adding on top of that the heartache of being miles away must be absolutely awful. Hope you and Jane both feel better very soon.

Stay positive!

Comment by Burkazoid

I know I keep saying this mate, but just stay focussed on the water. Cats are such beautiful. astonishing things, but human lives are even more amazing. I cry sometimes just looking at the North East on a plane map too, funnily enough. Every time I get on a plane I wonder if I will ever touch down, but every time, bizarrely, I have. Keep your eyes on the prize mate, then you can go home. We all love you and your family so much. We did anyway…

Comment by Adrian

Ohhh, how sad! I’m so sorry for your loss.

I know everything feels just terrible right now, but your sacrifice is so worthy. Just look at the testimonial videos on the charity:water site where the people are celebrating their new wells.

Comment by AmyL

I am so, so sorry about Elly, and I know you’re just devastated that you couldn’t be there with Jane. Losing a pet is a heart-rending experience. I hope both of you will be feeling better soon. And I hope you find a place to stay in Pittsburgh. It’s my home town, but I left 40 years ago.

Comment by noë

As per above – keep it going, bro… you knew that Elly was sick, and that it could happen – despite that, you have a life to lead yourself, as does Jane. It could have happened while you were in NY getting married, it could have happened while you were in bed and one of the boys coming in to your room to tell you about it.

The game of life… not great, not fair, but its the only game we truly play.

Comment by ChrisSmith

I went through a similar thing late last year. Horrible, horrible, horrible.😦 I still think you’re doing the right thing, though.

Comment by Fat Roland




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