When we arrive at Grand Central Station I dont know where to go. My mother said I could try to see an old friend, Dan Mac Adorey. The priest shows me how to use the telephone but theres no answer from Dan. Well, says the priest. I cant leave you on your own in Grand Central Station. He tells the taxi driver we're going to the Hotel New Yorker.
We take our bags to a room where there's one bed. The priest says. Leave the bags. We'll get something to eat in the coffee shop downstairs. Do you like hamburgers?
I dont know. I never had one in my life.
He rolls his eyes and tells the waitress bring me a hamburger with french fries and make sure the burger is well done because I'm irish and we overcook everything. What the irish do to vegetables is a crying shame. He says if you can guess what the vegetable is in an irish restaurant you get the door prize. The waitress laughs and says she understands. She's half-irish on her mother side and her mother is the worst cook in the world. Her husband was Italian and he really knew how to cook but she lost him in the war.
Waw. Thats what she says. She really means war but she's like all American who dont like to say 'r' at the end of a word. They say caw intead of car and you wonder why they cant pronounce words the way God Made them.
I like the lemon meringue pie but I don't like the way Americans leave out the 'r' at the end of the word.
While we're eating our hamburgers the priest says i'll have to stay the night with him tomorrow we'll see. Its strange taking off my clothes in front of a priest and I wonder if i should get down on my two kness and pretend to say my prayers. He tells me i can take shower if i like and its the first time in my life i ever had a shower with plenty of hot water and no shortage of soap, a bar for your body and a bottle for your head.
When I'm finished I dry myself with the thick towel draped on the bathtub and i put on my underware before going back into the room. The priest is sitting in the bed with a towel wrapped around his fat belly, talking to someone on the phone. He puts down the phone and stares at me. My God, where did you get those drawers?
In Roche's Stores in Limerick.
If you hung those drawers out the window of this hotel people would surrender. Piece of advice, don't ever let Americans see you in those drawers. They'll think you just got off Ellis Island. Get briefs. You know what briefs are?
Get 'em anyway. Kid like you should be wearing briefs. You're in the USA now. OK, hop in the bed , and that puzzles me because there's no sign of prayer and that's the first thing you'd expect of a priest. He goes off to the bathroom but he's no sooner in there than he sticks his head out and asks me if i dried myself.
Well, your towel isn't touched what did you dry yourself with?
The towel that's on the side of the bathtub.
What? Thats not a towel. Thats the bathmat. Thats what you stand on when you get out of the shower.
I can see myself in a mirror over the desk and I'm turning red and wondering if I should tell the priest I'm sorry for what I did of i should stay quiet. It's hard to know what to do when you make a mistake your first night in America but I'm sure in no time I'll be regular Yank doing everythingright. I'll order my own hamburger, learn to call chips french fries, joke with waitresses and never again dry myself with the bathmat. Some day I'll say war and car with no 'r' at the end but not if i ever got to Limerick. If i ever went back to Limerick with an American accent they'd say I was putting on airs and tell me I had fat arse like all the Yanks.
The priest comes out of the bathroom, wrapped in a towel, patting his face with his hands, and there's a lovely smell of perfume in the air. He says there's nothing as refreshing as after-shave lotion and I can put on some if i like. Its right there in the bathroom. I don't know what to say or do. Should I say, No, thanks, or should i get out of bed and go all the way to the bathroom and slather myself with after-shave lotion? I never heard of anyone in Limerick putting stuff on their faces after they shaved but I suppose it's different in America. I'm sorry I didn't look for a book that tells you what to do on your first night in New York in a hotel with a priest where you're liable to make a fool of yourself right and left. He says, Well? and I tell him. Ah, no, thanks. He says, Suit yourself, and I can tell he's a bit impatient the way he was when I didn't talk to the rich Protestants from Kentucky. He could easily tell me leave and there I'd be out on the street with my brown suitcase and nowhere to go in New York. I don't want to chance that so I tell him I'd like to put on the after-shave lotion after all. He shakes his head and tells me to go ahead.
I can see myself in the bathroom mirror putting on the after-shave lotion and I'm shaking my head at myself feeling if this is the way it's going to be in America I'm sorry I ever left Ireland. It's hard enough coming here in the first place without priests criticizing you over your failure to hit it off with rich Protestants, your ignorance of bathmats, the state of our underware and your doubts about after-shave lotion.
The priest is in bed and when I come out of the bathroom he tells me, OK, into the bed. We've got a long day tomorrow.
He lifts the bedclothes to let me in and it's a shock to see he's wearing nothing. He says, Good night, turns off the light and starts snoring without sayinga Hail Mary or a prayer before sleep. I always thought priest spent hours on their knees before sleeping but this man must be in a great state of grace and not a bit afraid of dying. I wonder if all priests are like that, naked in the bed. Its hard to fall asleep in a bed with a naked priest snoring beside you.....