'Money can't buy feelings,' Mick tells me. We're sitting in Piccadilly Square, central Manchester. Strange faces, foreign accents and new buildings surround me. It's my first week in this city; I'm feeling overwhelmed. I'm here to do a Masters in Creative Writing.
This, I hope, will be my stepping-stone to becoming a published author. I've learned the hard way that in a writer's life nothing is guaranteed. I have only my feelings to guide me. They have nothing to do with money.
Mick doesn't look like he knows about money either. Half-Ethiopian, half-Italian, dressed in a red hoodie and ripped Jeans with a short crop of dreads on his crown, he looks like a street kid. He tells me he's a dancer. He wants to live in America. He believes it's the land of dreams. I tell him dreams can happen anywhere.
I have to believe this. I've sacrificed a lot to get this far. I've left a beautiful home, family, friends and my dog behind to make this dream happen. Home is Spain. There, the sun shines for ten months of the year and the people are fiery but friendly. In Manchester it rains for 10 months of the year and the people seem busy. Here, everyone's in a rush.
Everyone except me and Mick. I met him for the first time five minutes ago. We immediately started talking about love and dreams. Us creative types are like that I guess. Reality doesn't interest us much.
'I like to give the ladies what they want,' Mick tells me, stepping up his game. 'You're a smoker, aren't you?' he asks. I am. I want to know how he can tell. He smiles. It must be the dreamy look in my eyes. 'Got any?' I ask hopefully.
Mick changes tack. 'Only after the age of 25 does a girl become a woman,' he announces clearly hoping to woo me with his understanding of feminine mystique. I've never been very good at being a woman. I've only ever wanted to be a writer.
Anyway I don't agree with him. I don't think gender defines a person. It's only when we really know what we want out of life and make every effort to achieve it do we really become who we are. Genitalia do not determine this journey. Ambition does. That's just my opinion.
Mick presses on hell bent on convincing me that he alone can give me what I want. This time I agree and convince him to give me some of his green. We walk away from the square to a back alley. I know I should be wary. This would probably be a good moment to walk away. But I'm so close to what I want.
Turns out he's trustworthy. He deposits enough for a few spliffs in my bag, refuses to take money, gives me his phone number and promises his friendship. I thank him and leave him on the corner. I check to see if he's following me. He isn't.
As I reach the other end of the alleyway the stench of stale piss hits me. A boy, around 13-years-old, comes toward me. He's got a shaved head and is wearing a dishevelled school uniform. He wants money. He says it's for bus fare. I don't believe him but Mick's generosity has piqued my compassion. I give the boy thirty-five cents. It's all the change I have.
I march on like a confident city girl. I've scored off a random dude and helped a runaway child. Granted, that's a slight exaggeration but I'm a writer; call it poetic license. I pass chic bars and crowded bus stops but don't recognise the streets. I realise I'm lost.
And yet, for the first time since my arrival in this new city, I have the feeling that I know exactly where I'm going. I have no idea if this Masters will secure my goal of becoming a published author. I only know it's the route I've chosen and I'm going to give it all I've got.
I may be poor, lonely and homesick but I guess when you're doing the right thing, everything feels right. After all, it's all about the feelings. And like Mick said, money can't buy those.
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