‘I Was Leaving My Midtown Office After Work on a Monday Evening’

Full Pie

Dear Diary:

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

I walked to the corner to hail a cab. Luckily, one was approaching just as I got there.

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

“There’s a box of pizza back here,” I said to the driver.

“Oh, give that to me,” he said. “The lady who just got out must’ve left it.”

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

As I got into the back of the cab, he opened the box and tilted it toward the plastic partition so I could get a look.

“This is a full pie from Serafina!” he exclaimed. “Want to split it?”

I politely declined.

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

— Samantha Tobin

The Metropolis Is Quiet

Dear Diary:

The metropolis is quiet now
The raucous daytime voices are stilled
One speeding car on the boulevard
The last reveler returning home
A magic time this is before dawn
The click of one’s shoes on the pavement
A sound heard rarely and only then
The market stalls packed and put away
Coffee brews at the all-night Starbucks
Cappuccino in a real cup please
A seat by the window to observe
The vanguard of the citizenry
The subway’s web begins tingling now
Peripheral people are coming
Keepers of the keys open their shops
As the eastern sky shows clouds tinged red
One sees movement behind the storefronts
Preparation for the flood to come
The city awakes, stretches and yawns
Soon the trains will deliver the crush
There is still time to breathe fresher air
Walk slowly down the empty sidewalk
And be beguiled by this new facet
Of the wondrous city by the sea.

— Ted Bishop

Mona Lisa at the Met

Dear Diary:

It was a frigid February day in 1963. I was 10, and my sister was 6. We were lined up with my father in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see the “Mona Lisa.” It was there on display. My father was ecstatic about this great opportunity.

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

Almost 60 years later, I have no recollection of the “Mona Lisa,” but I do remember standing on Fifth Avenue in front of that magnificent building with my enthusiastic and adorable dad.

— Donna Damico

Locking Up

Dear Diary:

I was locking up the coffee shop at 7. It was already fully dark and freezing cold, and I was feeling a little uneasy as I pulled down the grate and knelt down to put in the locks.

I hadn’t been working at the place very long and was still learning about the area. Harry, an older regular who lived across the street, had been talking with me that morning about what the Lower East Side had been like when he moved in in the 1980s. He was worried about a young woman locking up alone at night.

I had laughed off his concern and sent him on his way with his pumpkin bread at the time. Now, though, I was a little nervous. It was a very quiet block without many lights.

I straightened up from the door, turned toward the street and caught a flicker of light out of the corner of my eye. I looked up at the third-floor window across the street, where Harry had apparently been keeping an eye out for me.

He flicked his flashlight at me twice: All OK?

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

To Go

Dear Diary:

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

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

“My deli,” he said. “My rules.”

My other friend said that she, too, didn’t need a bag.

Again, strong eye contact followed by another bag being crumpled and thrown in the trash.

The man looked at me.

“You too?” he asked.

“Bag is fine,” I said. He and I both started to laugh. My friends joined in cautiously.

“Welcome to New York,” I said when we got outside.

— Jessica Ward

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Illustrations by Agnes Lee

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