A well-dressed older woman carrying a faux-alligator cat carrier walked into the Best Friends Lifesaving Center in SoHo recently asking to meet two specific black cats.
She filled out a form and washed her hands, and I brought her in to meet the cats. She decided on the female, and we sat down to do the necessary paperwork.
I asked if she had a general preference for black cats.
She looked me up and down.
“No, dear,” she said. “l don’t have a preference. I just live in New York City. I wear black every day.”
— Diane Mancher
In Jackson Heights
I was walking down 34th Avenue in Jackson Heights on my way home from the local farmers’ market. It had been snowing all morning, and the trees were coated with a shimmering blanket of white.
At one point, I paused and took out my phone to try to capture the beauty of my neighborhood in that moment.
A woman with a bag of groceries slung over her shoulder slowly approached the spot where I had planted myself and my cart. I imagined her thinking to herself that I was blocking her path and for what — to take a picture of snow?
As she came closer, she took one gloved hand, skimmed some snow off a wrought iron fence next to the sidewalk and gathered it in the palm of her hand.
At that moment, our eyes met.
“I like to eat the snow,” she said, quietly and with a hint of childlike wonder and what I took to be a Colombian accent.
We both smiled as she brought the cold crystals to her lips.
— Suzanne Rothman
The Platform Band
I was alone on a subway platform late one night. A trumpet player there was playing a tune.
After a time, a man carrying a guitar case appeared. He listened to the trumpet player for a little while, and then, without speaking, took out his guitar and joined in.
Before too long, the duo had attracted a percussionist and a man with a long coat and no shirt who danced beautifully to the music. Not one of them said a word.
A train came and went on the tracks above us, and an older woman ambled down the stairs.
“I’ll just take the next one,” she said to no one in particular. And then, to the band: “Do you know ‘These Foolish Things’?”
— Ben Botwick
It was my birthday, and a milestone one at that.
With celebratory calls filling my head and heart with the happiness of best wishes, I forgot to register for my life drawing workshop the next day. Attendance was limited to the first 13 people who replied to a 5 p.m. email, and the class was full by the time I remembered to reply.
Later that evening, I called a neighbor who is also a workshop regular to say I wouldn’t be joining her the next day.
She had also missed the email after mistakenly setting her reminder alarm for 5:30 p.m. I told her my excuse: that I had been distracted because it was my birthday. She suggested we go out to dinner to celebrate.
We went to an Italian place in our Upper West Side neighborhood. My neighbor mentioned to our waiter that it was my birthday.
He asked if we would like dessert. We declined and asked for the check.
He returned with a surprise: chocolate mousse with a lit candle. He apologized for not singing “Happy Birthday,” saying he had a “not-so-great” singing voice.
That was fine with me, as I hated the attention anyway.
A woman at the next table, overhearing the waiter, suggested that her companion, an opera singer, could do the honors.
And so she did, performing a beautiful soprano rendition of “Happy Birthday” to me, the rest of the restaurant and, possibly, anyone walking by outside.
We all but gave her a standing ovation.
— Terry Staverman
Things weren’t going so well in my acting career, and I was desperate — so desperate that I went to an audition where I had to dress up as Captain America and sing the national anthem.
The job, which paid $400, was not at a sporting event or anything remotely as cool as that, but for the grand opening of a used-car dealership in the Bronx.
At the audition, I put on the costume and sang the first stanza of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” I guess I looked the part and sang well enough because I was offered the gig.
After saying my thank-yous, I hurried out and stripped off the outfit like it was on fire. When I got to the elevator, there was a tall, wiry young man waiting there.
We nodded to each other politely.
“Captain America?” he asked after a moment.
“Yeah,” I replied weakly, head down and feeling as though I had hit rock bottom.
He smiled and excitedly stuck out his hand.
— Jack Mulcahy
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Illustrations by Agnes Lee