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New York part III / The one where I left

Pol had met her now-husband on a website matching beautiful young things to older successful men. He had singled her out, bombarding her with flattering messages and promises of a secure future. They had arranged to marry a few weeks after their initial meeting.

Pol was moving out of our Crosby Street flat to live on Park Avenue with her new husband, but would keep the flat and use one of her bedrooms as an office, the other a walk-in closet. My room would be mine on my return, she promised. Nervous as to how this would all play out, I sped up the process of finding someone to rent my flat and made sure I had seen everybody in London by the following weekend. I booked my flight back to New York late on the Sunday night. As I handed the keys over to my new tenant, my heart felt heavy as I pulled away from Notting Hill in a taxi.

I landed back in New York and was once again enamoured by the sight of the Manhattan skyline. As I made my way from JFK to the city, I realised London was the family member who would always be there and New York the exciting friend who wanted me to be wild. If I had any feelings of responsibility, the city did its best to rid me of them.

Pol and I arranged to have dinner and met at Pastis at 8pm. Freshly tanned and newly married, she brought the beach photographs from her wedding ceremony. Just the two of them, with another couple they had met at the hotel as witnesses. I had been away for less than two months and it was odd to see a wedding band was now firmly on her left hand. It should have seemed more odd considering all that had happened in the few years we had lived together, but this just felt like another part of her wild roller-coaster ride. Things had to change, Pol said, hence her decision to secure a husband who was going to look after her until death did they part.

I disliked Pol’s husband on sight, an imposing man with greased back hair and little charm. I first met him in their flat uptown, a decent space, but not the vast flat with city views I had been expecting for such a compromised situation. They were an unlikely match, but I could understand why Pol had made the decision to seek out a husband who could ensure the upkeep of her lifestyle and give her some form of security. As she soon found out, compromised matrimony wasn’t going to be easy.

Over a period of a few months, Pol started to withdraw into herself. She often complained about her husband’s behaviour and wished she had never put herself in her current position. As time went on, the stories she relayed became more unpleasant, until one afternoon she confided in me that she was going to leave him. We would have to give up our beloved flat on Crosby, a sign she wouldn’t have enough money coming in to cover her majority share of the rent any longer. I was growing tired of New York and missing London, so this seemed like a fated decision for us both.

We advertised our furniture for sale and soon, piece by piece, the flat became barren, leaving only our personal belongings to pack before the new tenants moved in. As much as I was excited to return to my flat in Notting Hill, the vibrant city that had looked after me so well for the past three years was going to be tough to bid farewell to. Pol soon found a flat-share downtown and I helped her move her things in before I left for the airport. It was a bittersweet goodbye.

We kept in regular contact and updated one another on our lives and how things were going with work. I was shooting regularly for i-D magazine, found myself firmly back on the party circuit and felt good about the somewhat forced decision to move back to London. Pol on the other hand didn’t seem so settled. She was fighting her soon-to-be ex-husband for alimony money, an agreement that as I understood it would be possible in the terms of their prenuptial arrangement. Pol hadn’t disclosed the nature of her marriage to many friends and asked if I would return to New York to attend the Long Island court hearings with her. She said she would reimburse me for my flight and that I could of course stay with her in her room to save finding a hotel. A week later I was on Pol's doorstep outside her new address in the Financial District. I was unsure of what to expect with the looming Long Island court dates, but saw the trip as a time to support Pol and had arranged a few meetings with agents in the city.

I was exhausted from my flight, so settled into Pol's new bedroom while she went out with friends in the neighbourhood. A heavy knock came at the front door in the middle of the night. It was clearly a harder sound than I had grown used to from Pol in the years that we had lived together; she often forgot her keys and it became something of a joke how often I would have to let her in. Through the spyglass on the door I could just make out a burly man in a reflective vest and hard hat with a pair of legs over his shoulder. As I opened the door I could hear Pol’s voice, but couldn’t decipher exactly what she was saying. The man who had carried her home – thankfully Pol had remembered her address – was a construction worker who had been working through the night at an office complex a few streets away. Pol had been out drinking with friends since the early evening and he had found her trying to navigate her way through the nearby streets. He made the decision to carry her home once she had told him where she lived. He laid Pol on her bed and I thanked him as went back to his night shift.

The following morning we made our first train journey out to Long Island. The court was grim, a musty smelling place with rooms that would benefit from a coat of fresh paint. I hated entering the building, it had a heavy energy hanging in the air and a feeling that only heartache and despair ever passed through it. Pol and I stayed close as her estranged husband made his way down the corridor.

Over the coming days, it was clear her husband wasn’t willing to part with any money. His team were fighting Pol at every turn. Pol didn’t have a lawyer on her side, but did everything she could to answer any questions and plead any case she had in order to walk away from her hellish situation with enough money to ease a little of the pain.

Things between Pol and I were tense. It was the first time I had hated being in New York, staying in her dimly lit flatshare and caught up in Pol’s turbulent divorce. I understood she was under an immense amount of stress and was counting on the money from her ex to start afresh in New York, but this wasn’t my life and I found the situation unbearable.

I longed to be back in London with the peaceful silence of my flat and nothing more to fill my mind than finding the next styling job. I was scheduled to leave New York the following week, but woke the next day deciding I had to change my flight. I left the city that night.

Pol and I had clearly reached a turning point in our relationship, the friendship now too strained. I knew too much. Pol also owed me money for the flights I had booked from London to be with her at the Long Island court hearing. Pol had assured me she would pay me back, but once home in London, email after email asking her to transfer the funds to my bank account went unanswered. I knew then that we would never speak again.

DISCLAIMER. Names have been changed to protect identities. Situations relating to and involving Pol can, in some instances, be embellished or exaggerated. The term Escort used in this extract does not relate to work involving sex in exchange for money.

IMAGE CREDIT. New York by Lucy Williams /

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