Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Love is All I Know in New York City

Below is an excerpt from my journal recorded in the days that followed 9-11-2001

"There is no place to hide from this pain. From here in New Zealand I watch televised images of New Yorkers pleading for news of lost loved ones. How is it possible to respond to such horror? I search desperately for something to hold firm to and find it there in a sea of tiny flickering candles resting in hands cupped in gentle repose. How else can any of us hope to repel this unseen enemy than with the greatest weapon of all. Love.

Love is all I know in New York city.

Just weeks before horror ripped through this vibrant city I flew home to New Zealand from New York. As I left this city of tall slender spires that beamed with a burnished pride before the morning sunlight the ache of separation forced on us as a same-sex couple by American immigration law weighted me down into my seat and enveloped my heart in a fog of grief. A year earlier I had met for the first time the handsome and eccentric New Yorker who was to change the shape of my future irrevocably. This woman swept me up into an unchoreographed dance that traversed the depths and heights of New York city, acquainting me intimately with a face of this metropolis that tourists never see. And with romance New York style!

We had snowball fights late at night as we stepped out to buy coffee icecream, our delighted laughter echoing through the streets and drawing knowing smiles of approval from onlookers. New Yorkers, it seemed to me, love a lover. We embraced freely on pavements rendered silent by a delicate flurry of snowflakes that melted as they settled on the warmth of our lips. She presented me proudly with a huge bouquet of fresh (if somewhat bedraggled!) flowers which she had found atop the piles of garbage that lined the city streets that night and proclaimed “Don’t say I never give you flowers!!!“ We ate black bean ice cream at 3am as we drove from Chinatown to the caverns of Wall Street and she proudly introduced me to her old stamping ground ... the area that now lies in smouldering ruins. We walked the pavements of this metropolis as if they were our playground. We made it ours as New York has, through the decades, implored all lovers to do.

Months later, when eventually we emerged from the chrysalis that is new love, we began to become aware of an immoveable wall that existed beween us; American immigration law. Together again briefly in summer we defiantly held aloft the flags of our dual nations as we marched 65 blocks through Manhattan in the Gay Pride march, beneath the bright yellow banner imprinted with the words "Stop deporting our partners!".

Today I sit here alone in New Zealand, the phone in my hand. Far away in New York city she sleeps with her phone next to her on the pillow. The only comfort I am free to offer her is to listen to the sounds of her sleeping. I am prevented from returning to her by that immoveable wall and like all New Yorkers she is now locked in a daily battle against fear. The threat of further terrorist attacks looms ever larger. But behind that battle which she shares with so many others is a battle which she fights alone. A battle for that most basic of human rights; the right to stand beside the one you love at a time of immense collective grief. I am reduced to watching CNN from ten thousand miles away, desperately hoping for even the briefest glimpse of her face amongst the crowds.

Neither of us knows when I will be able to return to her. The likelihood of America’s borders now becoming even more difficult to penetrate looms ever larger, even for those such as myself, who come bearing only love. Yet we are aware too that we have much to be thankful for. Ours is but one story and New York is today the city of thousands of stories of lovers cruelly torn apart. As a couple who abandoned themselves to the love story that is New York city we cry for that scarred cityscape where our own joyful laughter will forever linger. And we cry desperately for those couples whose separation will span not just months, as ours does, but fully into eternity. "

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