The rest of the day is spent wandering from SoHo and Greenwich Village to the East Village: Basically anything to avoid returning to Williamsburg and our hosts.
Killing time on holiday sucks. You should be savoring every minute instead of wishing hours away but at least we find plenty to occupy ourselves with. Happy Hour has long been outlawed in Ireland but, as we discover, it’s alive and well in New York — especially in First Avenue’s many dive bars.
After a hefty dose of postprandial beverages we head across to Housing Works on Crosby Street to see Michael Gira of the Swans deliver a more than passable acoustic set. Unfortunately night inevitably draws in and we have to return to the couch from hell.
The following evening is the last of our brief sojourn, and neither of us wants to spend it with our hosts. So it’s back to the East Village for a proper farewell Irish-style.
But we can’t put Stephen and Kelly out of our minds just yet: our hosts are planning a Sunday-morning excursion, and we pledged to be back before the witching hour. So having bar-hopped our final hours away, and mindful of our curfew, we reluctantly hail a cab back to Williamsburg.
The transition from teeming, vibrant East Village to our hosts could not be harsher. Their street is totally silent, and when we ring the buzzer it is not Kelly or Stephen but an elderly Polish woman from the ground-floor apartment who lets us in, offering a big smile as we pass by.
Unfortunately, the reception upstairs is chillier. The television is blaring, and though Kelly asks a few questions about our day and our plans for the morning, Stephen says nothing, just staring blankly at the set.
An odd, forced silence descends on the apartment, broken only by the television and the occasional awkward sound of squishing air-mattress plastic as we struggle to get comfortable. Not how I had envisaged our final night in the city that never sleeps.
CouchSurfing is all about the people. When they’re good it’s great. When, like Stephen and Kelly, they are quarrelsome, unfriendly and uninterested, it’s pretty awful. Waking on our final morning, my only thought is to make our exit as quick as possible. Stephen is fast asleep, but Kelly is awake and reading in the far corner of the room.
After showering and packing in record time, I thank her for the hospitality and make a gift of a bottle of whiskey. I don’t mention that they should visit me in the home of Jameson.
Next time I take my girlfriend to New York I’ll stump up for a proper hotel.
Peter Geoghegan is a writer and arts journalist based in Belfast.
Illustrations by Mike Force.