‘My Heart Skipped a Beat When I Saw Her Across the Tracks’

Their City

Dear Diary:

I was standing on the platform at the Union Square station. My heart skipped a beat when I saw her across the tracks: my ex-girlfriend from college. We had broken up bitterly several years earlier because I wanted to move to New York City.

I shouted across the tracks to get her attention.

“Who are you?” she replied.

I shouted out my name, and she stared back at me quietly.

“What are you doing in my city?” I asked.

“It is my city too!” she yelled.

Trains passed between us, and we never saw each other again.

— Michael Arcati

Walking Across Town

Dear Diary:

I knew it was going to be a tough week. To settle my nerves before arriving at my desk, my book and my never-ending writing date with my dissertation, I decided to walk across town from home and then up to Columbia that Monday morning.

I left the apartment feeling edgy and down in the mouth. I stared at the pavement as I walked. But as I had expected, the fresh air and bright sunshine of that fall day helped lessen my burden. Before long, I had lifted my eyes.

I noticed a doorman on the north side of East 96th Street up ahead. It was pretty early, and he was hosing down the sidewalk in front of his building before the residents started rushing off to work and school and other obligations.

When he saw me approaching, he redirected the hose from the sidewalk to the street so I could pass without getting wet, and then shut it off.

Once I had passed, he quickly turned it on again full blast and arced the spray above the moving traffic toward the sidewalk on the south side of the street. I joined him in watching the water as it rose and fell.

A doorman standing front of the building on the south side of the street jumped quickly as if to dodge the unexpected downpour.

“Don’t worry,” my water-hurling Dennis the Menace said. “We’re good friends.”

— Cindy Wiltshire

Off to Paris

Dear Diary:

It was 1995, and I was about to leave the city to move to Paris and get married. I loved Paris, but I knew I would miss New York terribly.

I decided to have one last coffee at a cafe in the East Village. As I did, a very large man who was wearing a poodle skirt and pink kitten heels and holding a small blue suitcase walked by.

I’m leaving this town, he said petulantly.

Me too, I thought sadly. Me too.

— Kimberly Butler

Getting Takeout

Dear Diary:

One summer evening when you could gratefully feel the mercury descending the thermometer, I spotted a well-dressed man and woman, hand in hand, a half-block ahead of me on my walk around Greenwich Village.

There were lots of reds and yellows in the pattern of her long, cotton skirt, and lots of black in his suit and wide-brimmed hat.

As I was trying to figure out where they were headed — a nightclub, maybe, or some concert I didn’t know about — we came upon a very popular and crowded Mexican takeout place.

A line of customers snaked down the sidewalk, and music blared from two large speakers on either side of the storefront.

The well-dressed couple stopped walking and faced each other, still holding hands. They were discussing something, probably whether to get food to go.

Just then, they gave each other a sweet, soft kiss. He stood still, facing her. She stepped back, gave him a little curtsy and broke into a beautiful dance. Then she took his hand, and he started dancing, too, just as beautifully.

I stood there admiring them. Everyone on line to order food was admiring them as well. When the music paused, the couple paused too.

Everyone in the line started to clap. So did I. The couple gave a quick but ornate bow, kissed each other again sweetly and joined the line to order food. I continued on my walk.

— Doug Sylver

Honey Don’t

Dear Diary:

Leaving my Upper East Side school on a pleasant fall day, I saw a woman peering intently at something in a nearby flower bed.

“There’s a perfectly good honeydew melon in there,” she said.

She wanted to retrieve it but was having trouble bending over to grab it.

I walked over, examined the object closely and realized that it wasn’t a melon but a foam-rubber ball. I picked it up and explained to the woman that it was a ball, not a honeydew.

Rather than thanking me, she snatched the ball from me and said she needed to give it to her son’s school. Clutching her newfound treasure, she headed off toward Park Avenue.

— Ellen Stavitsky

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Illustrations by Agnes Lee

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