An Englishman in New York shows that chivalry is not dead, though the woman he saves has other ideasby James Lasdun / March 22, 2007 / Leave a comment
Published in March 2007 issue of Prospect Magazine
A young Englishman was walking down a street in the West Village. He had come to New York on an internship at the Manhattan branch of the auction house he worked for in London, and he was on his way to appraise a painting at the home of a private collector.
He was early for his appointment, and he moved along at a leisurely pace, gazing appreciatively into the boutiques lining the street. He liked New York. Superior versions of all the things he enjoyed most in life—clothes, cocktails, art books, restaurant meals—were available everywhere at half the price they cost in London, and wherever he went people seemed smitten by his unusually pure Englishness: his drawl, his unfailingly polite manner, his pallid good looks.
He had a girlfriend in London, who worked for a merchant bank. Every morning he spoke to her on the phone, and every night he sent her an email, usually with some anecdote chosen to appeal to her sense of the ridiculous: the beggar he had given a handful of change to, only to be indignantly informed by the man that he didn’t “accept no goddam pennies”; the clam bake he had gone to on the beach in East Hampton wearing shorts and a T-shirt, where it turned out all the other men were wearing linen suits and ties… And this too, the gathering up of these little stories to share with his girlfriend, was a part of his enjoyment of the city.
He turned on to a quieter street of brick townhouses with window boxes and small front gardens enclosed in iron railings. About halfway along he heard a voice shouting from above him:
“Sir, sir, excuse me, sir…”
He looked up. A woman was leaning out of a window on the top floor.
“Could you help me please? I broke the handle on my door and I can’t get out of my apartment…”
He hesitated, unsure how to respond.
“I feel like such an idiot but I just don’t know what to do… I’m trapped in here!”
“Do you think maybe…