October 22, 2020

‘I Immediately Began to Wonder Whether I Was on the Right Train’

Dear Diary:

I was just starting out as a lawyer and was to make my first court appearance in the Bronx. Having grown up in Brooklyn, I knew my way around that borough and Manhattan by train. I was less familiar with the lines that ran to the Bronx.

A friend in my office offered some advice.

“Take the Lex, but don’t get on the wrong train,” he said. “You want to go to Yankee Stadium. Just remember it’s Lou Gehrig’s number.”

I went to the subway station and got on a 5 train when it pulled in. I immediately began to wonder whether I was on the right train.

I asked one of the other passengers if he knew what Lou Gehrig’s number was.

He said he did not.

“DiMaggio was 5 if that helps you,” he added.

It did. I changed trains at the next opportunity.

— Jean Prabhu

Dear Diary:

One day a few months ago, I was walking up Third Avenue to the mailbox nearest my home with a letter that I was in a hurry to send.

This mailbox is one of the newer ones that has a narrow slot for dropping letters, not the traditional door to be pulled down.

As I approached the mailbox, I noticed a tall, well-dressed man standing in front of it with his back to the sidewalk. He was blocking anyone else’s access to the mailbox and he showed no sign of going anywhere.

“Excuse me,” I said.

He turned around with an annoyed expression. Spread across the narrow ledge in front of the mail slot was an open sandwich, a bag of chips and a tall drink. I realized I had interrupted his lunch.

Assuming he would move his things, I took a step back. Just then, a gust of wind whisked his napkin away. As he took a few steps to grab it, another woman came up with a letter in her hand.

She took in the scene, and we smiled at each other. Without hesitating, she carefully maneuvered her letter around and over his lunch and into the slot and then walked away. I did the same.

I couldn’t help turning around when I was halfway down the block. Sure enough, the man was back at the mailbox, finishing his lunch courtesy of the U.S. Postal Service.

— Phyllis Carson

Dear Diary:

It was spring 1974, and I was riding my bike home from Central Park early one morning. I stopped for a red light at 57th Street and Sixth Avenue.

As I waited for the light to change, a delivery truck from H&H Bagels pulled up alongside me.

I looked up at the driver and said hello. He said hello. Then he reached into a bag by his side and handed me a fresh bialy.

— Ari Rabinowitz

Dear Diary:

I am sitting on a bench in a tiny corner of greenery near Lincoln Center. I have arrived here after lugging my old-fashioned, faux-leather suitcase from a Metro-North station in Connecticut into the city and through the maze of the subway.

It is a very warm day and I am catching my breath. I am about to walk the last leg of my journey to an apartment on the Upper West Side where I will sit for two cats.

It seemed like a great idea when I set it up. Newly retired, I was ready for a break from my little town and my husband, who didn’t have much time to play.

Now, though, I am feeling scattered and disheveled and anxious about this decision. Have I overestimated myself?

Still, I gather my energy. I can hardly back out now. I heft the suitcase to the nearby intersection to cross. I am a tiny woman, and it barely clears the ground as I scramble across.

In the middle of the crosswalk, a middle-age man carrying an instrument case passes me as he crosses in the opposite direction.

“Running away from home?” he asks with a smile.

“Yes!” I manage to blurt out in the few seconds we are within range of each other.

Now I too am smiling, and my suitcase feels much lighter. He has reminded me exactly why I came to New York.

— Linda Green

Dear Diary:

I was in the midst of an identity crisis last summer that was brought on by the pressures of graduate school and the looming approach of my 30th birthday.

Trying to reconnect with myself, and perhaps the simpler times of my childhood in Queens, I went to Rockaway Beach with a friend I had known since I was 5.

A nutcracker seller passed by. We called him over to chat and to buy a couple of cold drinks.

As he moved on, he passed a couple with a very young child who were sprawled out next to us.

The nutcracker seller stooped down and shook the child’s hand.

“Welcome to planet earth, baby,” he said. “We’re blessed to have you.”

— Kimberly La Porte

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Illustrations by Agnes Lee

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