In the lead up to Rosie turning 30 I tried to tell as many people as possible that she was going to be 40. Or else made sure that everyone knew she'd be 30 before me. She was less than amused, which surprised me at first as she has a very self-deprecating sense of humour and is well used to me. Getting upset over jibes about your age has always struck me as pointless, as it's a bit like being slagged for existing. But, just as the only birthday freak-outs I ever had occurred as my 24th and 28th birthdays saw me unemployed, so are there expectations and disappointments that can attach themselves to any number. And sometimes these things just remind us that the worms'll come for us all.
We decided to go away for the occasion; it being preferable to getting drunk in Dublin and raiding the burger vans of Camden Street on the way home, and well-deserved after the austerity of honeymooning on gift vouchers and special deals around the south-east of Ireland last year. New York was the spot we chose, she still carrying a torch for it from a previous visit and me unacquainted. Unacquainted, that is, only in the flesh - for no other city could possibly seem so familiar to a new visitor, rich in both pop-culture and real events. The looming Manhattan skyline as we approached from JFK looked like somewhere I already knew. Woke up this morning, got yourself a gun I hummed . And - Bleecker Street, Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn, Grand Central, SoHo, Times Square, Madison Avenue, Broadway, Harlem - Jesus, the weight behind them! The neon, the subway, the hotdog vendors, the yellow cabs, the showy screaming at each other on the streets, the pancakes for breakfast: it's all there like they said it was. There were a hell of a lot less white people than TV and movies would have you believe, but I'd heard that before. I quickly came to feel that New York, in the same way that cities like London, Paris and Rome were the epicentre of past epochs, was the city that embodied the 20th century. But it's a century that, for me, began with the arrival of a young Vito Corleone on Ellis Island in 1901 and ended on September 11th 2001.
We had ourselves a time, of course. When you come home everyone seems to have a list of things you ought to have done in NYC, and there's every chance that you did none of them, and they've done none of yours. We saw museums and parks and skyscapers and shops and we ate ourselves silly and slept like sweaty logs every night as it blustered and dusted snow outside.
On our last night there, Rosie's birthday, we wandered up Eighth Avenue uncharacteristically late looking for a decent spot to chow down when Frankie and Johnnie's Steak and Chophouse lured us in with an unprepossessing exterior before we choked over the numerals on the menu. If the sexagenarian waiters in tuxedos hadn't tipped us off that this wasn't just any old steakhouse then the woman coming in to book a party of ten for Tom Selleck soon did. We shared the Porterhouse Steak For Two over an agreeable, affordable Malbec, with sides of cream spinach and fries. I may never eat a finer meal.
"We should come back to New York for all significant birthdays," said Rosie.
"Mmmfffyeah, and eat here" I gulped through a mouthful of medium rare.
"I suppose if they've been going since 1926 they'll still be here in ten years."
"So, 40, then," I said wistfully, "Just think, we'll be sitting here having dinner and we'll remember this conversation." It is, invariably, me who injects a note of sentimentality into such moments.
"Stop," she said, "you're making me cry."
I was in danger of the same. Because making plans for ten years up the road is the most married I've felt yet, because life feels so good lately that ten years away can surely only be worse, because the future is always terrifying. Because the worms suddenly edged that inch closer. Because I do not want to wait ten years.