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“I was leaving my Midtown office after work on a Monday night”

Dear Diary:

I was leaving my Midtown office after work on a Monday night. I had returned from a trip that morning and went straight to the office, so I still had my bags with me.

I walked around the corner to hail a cab. Fortunately, there was one approaching just as I arrived.

Reaching to open the door while juggling my things, I noticed a large pizza box in the back seat.

“There’s a pizza box here,” I tell the driver.

“Oh, give me that,” he said. “The lady who just came out must have left him.”

I threw my things in the back and handed the box to him through the window.

As I climbed into the back of the cabin, he opened the box and tilted it towards the plastic bulkhead so I could take a look.

“It’s a full Serafina pie!” he exclaimed. “Do you want to divide it?”

I politely declined.

“OK, your choice,” he said. “But do you mind if I play soft jazz?”

– Samantha Tobin

Dear Diary:

The metropolis is quiet now
The hoarse voices of the day have fallen silent
A high-speed car on the boulevard
The last party animal coming home
A magic moment is before dawn
The slap of his shoes on the sidewalk
A sound heard rarely and only then
Market stalls packed and tidied up
Brewed coffee at Starbucks open all night
Cappuccino in a real cup please
A seat by the window to observe
The Vanguard of Citizens
The subway web is starting to tingle now
Peripheral people are coming
The keepers of the keys open their shops
As the eastern sky shows clouds tinged with red
We see movement behind the windows
Preparation for the Coming Flood
The city wakes up, stretches and yawns
Soon the trains will deliver the crush
There’s still time to breathe some fresh air
Walk slowly on the empty sidewalk
And let yourself be seduced by this new facet
From the marvelous city by the sea.

—Ted Bishop

Dear Diary:

It was a freezing day in February 1963. I was 10 years old and my sister was 6 years old. We were lined up with my dad in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see the “Mona Lisa”. He was on display there. My father was delighted with this great opportunity.

“You’ll never forget this day,” he told me excitedly in his Brooklyn accent while tapping my arm repeatedly. “You will never forget that we came to see the ‘Mona Lisa’.”

Nearly 60 years later, I have no memory of the “Mona Lisa”, but I do remember standing on Fifth Avenue in front of this magnificent building with my enthusiastic and lovely father.

—Donna Damico

Dear Diary:

I was closing the cafe at 7 o’clock. It was already completely dark and freezing cold, and I felt a little uneasy as I lowered the gate and knelt down to put the locks on.

I hadn’t worked there very long and was still learning about the area. Harry, an older regular who lived across the street, had spoken to me that morning about what the Lower East Side was like when he moved in in the 1980s. a young woman locks herself alone at night.

I had laughed at his concern and sent him on his way with his pumpkin bread at the time. Now, however, I was a bit nervous. It was a very quiet block without a lot of lights.

I straightened from the doorway, turned to the street, and saw a flickering light out of the corner of my eye. I looked up at the third story window across the street, where Harry had apparently been keeping an eye on me.

He pointed his flashlight at me twice: Are you okay?

I nodded, smiled, and gave him a thumbs up, feeling both silly and comforted. I had a feeling he would do that most nights from then on. And he did.

—Jessica Hitt

Dear Diary:

I was at a grocery store on Morris Park Avenue in the Bronx with two friends from Los Angeles. After getting our sandwiches, we went to the checkout to pay.

The man at the counter phoned my friend’s order and put his sandwich in a brown paper bag.

My friend said he didn’t need the bag.

The man looked at it, maintained strong eye contact, took the sandwich out of the bag, crumpled it up, and threw it in the trash.

“My charcuterie,” he says. “My rules.”

My other friend said she didn’t need a bag either.

Again, strong eye contact followed by another bag crumpled up and tossed in the trash.

The man looked at me.

“You also?” He asked.

“The bag is fine,” I said. He and I started laughing. My friends cautiously joined.

“Welcome to New York,” I said when we walked out.

—Jessica Ward

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Illustrations by Agnes Lee


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