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‘I Watched Her Descend the Stairs Into the Station Carefully’

Going to Canal Street

Dear Diary:

It was a spring day, and I was walking toward the train station on my way to buy groceries on my lunch break when I saw an older woman with a cane waving and smiling at me.

She asked me where the Q train was.

“Right behind you,” I said. “Where are you going?”

“Canal Street,” she replied.

She told me she had gotten lost and couldn’t remember how she had ended up in my Brooklyn neighborhood.

I watched her descend the stairs into the station carefully. She did it backward. She said it was easier on her hips.

I was worried about her, so I offered to ride with her to Canal Street. She agreed.

During our ride, she told me her life story: how she had grown up in Beijing in the 1940s, how her son had died from leukemia and how she had then moved to New York alone to study music.

When we got to Canal Street, I insisted on giving her my number.

I haven’t seen her in my neighborhood since then, but we do get breakfast every so often at a Chinese bakery near Canal Street. It’s her favorite spot.

— Cathy Zhang

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