Carlo and I were the only patrons in the Greenwich Village music bar. It was early in the evening, and the sun had not fully set.
We sat across from each other, nestled between two protective glass panels. I finally felt a joy, a stillness. I wanted the moment in the empty music bar, with Carlo, to last.
As night fell, a tall musician tuned his guitar and began to play the blues. He played generously, as Carlo requested B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Ray Charles, even Marvin Gaye.
The guitarist also played some of his own original compositions. I drank two rum and Cokes. Carlo had a diet soda. We shared a cup of fries.
The windows were open, and it was cold and rainy outside, so we kept our coats on. Carlo tapped his fingers to the music, and I moved to the rhythm quietly in my seat.
I recalled that Carlo and I had visited the same bar to hear Latin jazz in easier times. The place was packed that night. Delighted, I had watched Carlo dance saucily in his seat with unbridled joy, his eyes closed tight, his lips curled with pleasure.
Smiling suddenly, he had opened his eyes to see if I was watching him. I was. I can no longer dance to “Oye Como Va,” without recalling that moment.
— Tiffany Osedra Miller
New Pearl Earrings
It was getting late. I was perched on a sidewalk grate, waiting for the downtown bus on Fifth Avenue.
I pulled the collar of my coat up around my neck and my knit cloche down around my ears. I was hoping to keep out the wind that was just starting to make its presence known. With no bus in sight, I adjusted my armaments against the chill again and felt a tiny tug at my earlobe.
I reached up to determine what I had felt, and as I did, my new pearl earring slipped off, dropped through my gloved hand, bounced off my upturned collar, made a left turn at my scarf and skittered down the front of my coat and through the grate I was standing on.
I stood there, just staring for a minute while realizing there was probably nothing I could do to raise the earring from the dark hold below my feet.
So after another moment, I removed the other earring and dropped it through the grate, hoping that if some lucky soul ever found it, there would be a matching pair.
— Kathleen Fitzmaurice
I was having dinner outside on the West Side. I saw my neighbor, an older woman who was wearing brightly colored yoga pants. I noticed that there were a couple of tennis rackets resting behind her.
I asked how her tennis game was.
She said her partner was blind in one eye, so she always had to hit to his forehand side.
— Mark Kinn
Like a Native
I was new to the city, having just arrived from Wales to live with my wife, a native New Yorker, on the Upper West Side.
Yearning to fit in, I would listen enviously as she and her friends discussed the apparently endless combinations of ways — bus, subway, walking, taxi, Uber — to get somewhere. All I knew were the No. 1 and No. 2 lines.
One day, I got off the 1 at 86th Street and headed for our apartment at 90th and Broadway. A man and a woman approached me on the noisy, busy platform. They had worried looks.
“Excuse me,” the man said. “How do we get to Times Square?”
“Ah,” I said, “You are going uptown. You need to go downtown. Go up those stairs, cross the street and come back down to the other platform. Get a 1 train downtown to 42nd Street. That’s the Times Square stop.”
They thanked me and walked away.
I stood there, glowing with pride.
— Paul Stapleton
How to Say It
It was sometime in the mid-1980s, and I was at a rather pretentious specialty-food shop in Midtown. As I waited on the prepared food line, I noticed a well-dressed man behind me.
When it was my turn, I said I wanted a pound of the “porseeny” ravioli.
As the person at the counter prepared my order, the well-dressed man tapped me on the arm.
“Excuse me,” he said, “but in Italian, it’s pronounced ‘por-chee-knee.’”
I thanked him for correcting my error, took my package and was turning to leave when I heard him order four pieces of the “jal-o-peeno” cornbread.
I turned around and tapped him on the arm.
“Excuse me,” I said, “but in Spanish, it’s pronounced ‘hal-eh-pen-yo.’”
— Jerry Wolbert
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Illustrations by Agnes Lee