‘Before Leaving Town, We Stopped to Get Sandwiches to Eat in the Car’

Cutting the Line

Dear Diary:

My wife and I were about to drive back to Ithaca after spending a weekend seeing shows in Manhattan. Before leaving town, we stopped to get sandwiches to eat in the car.

When we got to the sandwich place, it wasn’t open yet, so we took a place in the growing line. As we waited, a woman approached me and asked whether we would let her share our space in the line while she went to do some other shopping.

I didn’t know if saving a space that way was allowed, but I agreed anyway.

The woman thanked me, and, maybe to emphasize her gratitude, tapped me lightly on my upper arm. Then she raised her other arm and squeezed my bicep with both hands.

“You’ve been working out,” she said.

— Arno Selco

Pulling Weeds

Dear Diary:

I rounded the corner to find a man crouching in front of the narrow planting bed by our co-op’s garden wall, yanking out plants. (Weeds? Legitimate growth? I wasn’t sure.)

I was mystified. I didn’t recognize the man as one of my neighbors. I paused in front of him, then moved to put my key in the building’s door. I looked at the man again. He finally looked up.

“I’m pulling weeds so this nice Boston ivy can grow up the wall,” he said.

“Oh,” I replied, “that’s nice.”

I was going to leave it there.

“I’m a landscape architect,” he said. “My firm designed the park next door.”

I struggled for a response.

“My name’s Michael,” he said. “I live up the street.”

It turned out it the man was Michael Van Valkenburgh, whose firm’s work includes, among other things, Brooklyn Bridge Park.

We exchanged a few more words, and then he strolled away.

— Jane Stageberg

Crossing Central Park

Dear Diary:

I was walking west across Central Park on a gorgeous Saturday morning in July. When I approached the drive on the park’s east side, I paused and watched the cyclists race north.

Waiting to cross, I met the eye of a man on a bike. He was wearing a bright blue jersey and no helmet. He flashed me a smile as he passed.

I continued on and paused again when I got to the drive on the west side, this time watching the cyclists speed south in a blur.

I was lost in thought and waiting for a calm moment to cross when a bicycle bell’s piercing ring snapped me out of my daze.

I looked up and saw the man in the blue jersey. He was smiling again. In the time it had taken me to stroll west, he had completed the top half of the Central Park loop on two wheels.

His smile soon became a giggle.

“It’s you!” he shouted.

“It’s you!” I replied.

— Nina Moske

Middle of the Room

Dear Diary:

I was born in New York and have been bringing my daughters to the city for years.

On one of our trips, we went to a restaurant near Lincoln Center where we had eaten many times before. Two college friends of my daughters who were living in the city joined us.

I asked for a table in the middle of the dining room so that we could enjoy the busy chatter around us.

As we sat down, I noticed a woman sitting nearby with what appeared to be her family, young members and old, and she seemed to notice me. After my daughters, their friends and I ordered our drinks, the woman tapped my shoulder.

“Love your purse,” she said. I said it belonged to one of my daughters.

The woman continued to talk, and my daughters soon joined in. Before we knew it, her table — parents, husband, teenage daughter — and ours were acting like long-lost family.

The food arrived, and we all began to eat. I asked the server to bring them another bottle of the wine they were drinking. My new friend came over and hugged me. I hugged her back. We didn’t say anything.

Before we could order dessert, they ordered several treats for us. We laughed. I asked the server to bring them desserts, and they clapped when the desserts arrived. We cheered.

They got up to leave, and my new friend and I hugged again.

“Have a good life,” I said.

“Be well,” she replied.

— Candace Wayne

‘Some Like It Hot’

Dear Diary:

My wife and I were at a performance of “Some Like It Hot” at the Shubert Theater.

Shortly before the show started, two women approached the seats behind us, including the one on the aisle.

“Which seat do you want?” one woman said to the other.

“I bought the tickets,” the second woman replied. “You sit next to the stranger.”

— Damian Maldaver

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Illustrations by Agnes Lee

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