I was going down the service elevator in my building with Mike, the elevator operator.
Suddenly he stopped at one of the lower floors.
When the door opened, he held out his hand.
An older woman standing there reached out her hand, holding a jar she apparently couldn’t open.
Mike took the jar, opened it and returned it with a smile.
“Thank you,” she said.
He closed the door and we continued down.
My sister, who moved to California over 30 years ago, came to visit. Nostalgic, we decided to go to Coney Island, where we grew up.
As we strolled along the promenade, we encountered a small crowd gathered around a street performer. He played the guitar and accompanied by a dozen parrots of different colors, shapes and sizes who sang with him, to everyone’s delight.
My sister couldn’t contain her excitement.
“Oh my God!” she blurted out in her distinctive Brooklyn accent.
A yellow-naped Amazon who was the troupe’s most talented singer stopped singing.
“Oh my God!” he exclaimed in perfect imitation of my sister, repeating it over and over and opening his beak wide to emphasize “gawd.”
The guitarist tried, but he couldn’t persuade the bird to drop his new catchphrase.
I was in uptown #1 in November 2013 when an older woman walked up to 34th Street. I offered her my place and she graciously accepted.
At 66th Street, she got up to get off and started walking past me.
“Let me guess,” I said. “You’re going to the opera at the Met.”
“I’m in the orchestra,” she replied.
I was on my way to the show that night and we walked to Lincoln Center together.
“I play the glass harmonica, an instrument invented by Benjamin Franklin,” she said.
As we parted, I said I would try to go down to the orchestra pit and take a look at his instrument. Then I went to meet my granddaughter Amanda.
We had plenty of time before the show, so we headed forward, looked into the pit, and spotted my subway mate.
She looked at us and smiled.
“Oh,” Amanda said, “a glass harmonica! That was invented by Benjamin Franklin.
I turned to her and stared at her.
Last October, I read an obituary for Cecilia Brauer, 97 and a member of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, and recalled the time we met.
—Thomas J. Russo
I traveled to New York last fall for a writing workshop with eight women from across the country. It was hosted by a well-known author at her home in Washington Heights.
I considered a hotel on the Upper West Side. How hard could it be to navigate the subway to 155th, I thought as I clicked ‘book now’ for a non-refundable room.
Harder than expected.
Expecting a friendly out-of-towner to stay nearby, I emailed the group, hoping to find a subway partner, to get several versions of “I wish I could to help”.
Then a woman who lived in Chelsea responded, offering Citi Bike the 50+ blocks to my hotel and hop on the subway with me from there.
I said I would wait with coffee and asked what kind she wanted.
When morning came, the weather was perfect for late September. I held the coffees, one in each hand, as I waited outside the hotel. Carelessly, I took a sip from the mug that was hers, then nervously greeted her with my confession.
With a small laugh, she lifted the cup to her lips and took a sip. We walked through the crowded 72nd Street station and down the steps to 1.
Soon we arrived at our destination, a cozy pre-war apartment filled with the smell of warm blueberry scones, the chatter of spirited women and the sound of a Newfoundland barking whenever a boat passes over the Hudson.
And, of course, there was a French press to top off our half-gobbled lattes.
I was rushing out of Canal Street station when I saw him: a teenager, leaning over a table and methodically folding origami roses to sell.
The roses—blue, yellow, red, and every color in between—were spread around him in piles that were already four or five blooms deep.
I was late, so I didn’t take a break. But as I walked away, I wondered how he would fare that day. I hadn’t noticed anyone else even glancing at him as they left the station. How often does he make a sale? Was he here every weekend?
Later, I was in SoHo walking behind a man and a woman who walked slowly, their little fingers linked. My eye caught an origami blue rose sticking out of her backpack.
I smiled. It was a duplicate: a sale and love in one.
Illustrations by Agnes Lee