A well-dressed elderly woman wearing a fake alligator cat carrier recently walked into the Best Friends Lifesaving Center in SoHo and asked to meet two specific black cats.
She filled out a form and washed her hands, and I brought her in to meet the cats. She chose the female and we sat down to do the necessary paperwork.
I asked if she had a general preference for black cats.
She looked me up and down.
“No, honey,” she said. ‘I have no preference. I just live in New York City. I wear black every day.”
— Diane Mancher
In Jackson Heights
I was walking down 34th Avenue in Jackson Heights on my way home from the local farmers market. It had snowed all morning and the trees were covered with a glittering white blanket.
At one point, I paused and grabbed my phone to try to capture the beauty of my neighborhood at that moment.
A woman with a bag of groceries over her shoulder walked slowly to where I had parked myself and my cart. I imagined that she thought to herself that I was blocking her way and for what – to take a picture of snow?
As she approached, she took a gloved hand, brushed some snow off a wrought iron gate beside the sidewalk, and gathered it in the palm of her hand.
At that moment our eyes met.
“I like to eat the snow,” she said softly, with a hint of childlike wonder and what I assumed to be a Colombian accent.
We both smiled as she brought the cold crystals to her lips.
— Suzanne Rothman
The platform band
I was alone on a subway platform late one night. There a trumpeter played a tune.
After a while, a man with a guitar case appeared. He listened to the trumpeter for a while, then, without saying a word, picked up his guitar and joined in.
Soon the duo had recruited a percussionist and a man in a long coat and no shirt who danced beautifully to the music. None of them said a word.
A train came and went on the tracks above us, and an elderly woman ambled down the stairs.
“I’ll just take the next one,” she said to no one in particular. And then, to the band, “Do you know ‘These Foolish Things’?”
— Ben Botwick
It was my birthday and therefore a milestone.
With celebratory phone calls filling my head and heart with the happiness of best wishes, I forgot to register for my life drawing workshop the next day. Turnout was limited to the first 13 people to respond to a 5:00 p.m. email, and the class was full by the time I remembered to reply.
Later that evening, I called a neighbor who also regularly runs a workshop to say I wouldn’t be with her the next day.
She had also missed the email after accidentally setting her reminder alarm for 5:30 p.m. I told her my excuse: that I was distracted because it was my birthday. She suggested going out to dinner to celebrate.
We went to an Italian joint in our Upper West Side neighborhood. My neighbor told our waiter it was my birthday.
He asked if we wanted dessert. We declined and asked for the check.
He came back with a surprise: chocolate mousse with a lit candle. He apologized for not singing “Happy Birthday”, saying he had a “not-so-great” singing voice.
That was fine with me, because I hated the attention anyway.
A woman at the next table, overhearing the waiter, suggested that her companion, an opera singer, do the honors.
And she did, with a beautiful soprano rendition of “Happy Birthday” for me, the rest of the restaurant, and possibly everyone who passed by outside.
We almost all gave her a standing ovation.
— Terry Staverman
My acting career wasn’t going well and I was desperate – so desperate that I went to an audition where I had to dress up as Captain America and sing the national anthem.
The $400 runway was not at a sporting event or anything remotely cool, but for the grand opening of a used car dealership in the Bronx.
At the audition, I donned the costume and sang the first stanza of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” I think I looked good and sang well enough because I was offered the gig.
After saying thank you, I rushed outside and took off the outfit as if it were on fire. When I got to the elevator, a tall, wiry young man was waiting.
We nodded politely at each other.
“Captain America?” he asked a moment later.
“Yes,” I replied weakly, my head down and feeling as if I had bottomed out.
He smiled and excitedly extended his hand.
— Jack Mulcahy
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Illustrations by Agnes Lee