‘The Older Man Was Standing by the Doors and Waiting to Exit the Train’

Dear Diary:

I was on a downtown No. 1. The young man across from me was furiously playing a game on his phone and didn’t notice when one of his gloves dropped to the floor.

An older man who was sitting next to the young man picked up the glove and held it out to him, but he was so absorbed in his game that he still didn’t notice.

The older man balanced the glove on the young man’s knee. A few minutes later, it fell to the floor again and, again, he didn’t notice.

By this time, the older man was standing by the doors and waiting to exit the train. He leaned toward the young man.

“Your glove is on the floor,” he said loudly while pointing.

Without looking up from his screen, the young man reached down and picked up the glove.

“Thank you,” he said, eyes still on the screen. “Appreciate it.”

The older man looked toward me, rolled his eyes and smiled.

— Elisabeth Ladenson

Dear Diary:

For my daily commute between Chelsea and the East Village, sometimes I walked, but mostly I took the subway.

I was on a mission to practice my drawing and I filled many small sketchbooks with spontaneous portraits of riders as they napped, meditated and read.

Some riders enjoyed looking at my pencil marks and I had many delightful, and occasionally rather meaningful, conversations.

One day, I noticed a young man in soldier’s fatigues watching me as I sketched a rider who was reading. When that person left the car, I began to glance around for my next sketching opportunity.

The young man in the fatigues placed himself directly across from me, smiled coyly, pointed at himself and posed.

He was proud, handsome and a great model. In the few minutes we had, I sketched him with care, hoping he would remain safe.

— Robin Kappy

Dear Diary:

I was riding a Citi Bike home at dusk when I saw an older woman standing next to a huge box of bananas.

How is she going to carry that home, I wondered as I approached her.

“They just left them,” she said. “They’re ready to eat, but take some.”

“Free bananas!” I said excitedly to a man who was walking by.

He held up several grocery bags.

“I just bought some,” he said. “But I’ll take some more!”

The three of us filled our bags.

“We can freeze them and put them in smoothies!” I said.

“I was thinking the same thing,” the older woman said with a smile as I rode away.

— Samuel Shipman

Dear Diary:

I was walking home through Central Park when I decided to stop and sit on a bench near the Balto statue and do some late-afternoon people watching.

I soon became aware of a loud voice coming from a grassy hill just over my shoulder. At first I thought it was someone making a speech, but I gradually realized it was someone announcing an imaginary baseball game.

I turned slightly and saw a young man pantomiming pitching from a mound. After each pitch, he announced the count. By now, the bases were loaded.

Strike 1.

Ball 1.

Ball 2.

Strike 2.

A small crowd had gathered, attracted by the young man’s energetic performance.

Ball 3. The suspense was growing.

The pitcher wound up for the next critical pitch, released the make-believe ball and paused.

He stood for a moment before making the triumphant announcement: Strike 3. He had won the game.

The crowd burst into applause.

— Susan Englar

Dear Diary:

On an icy cold day a few years ago, my husband took a bad fall on the Brooklyn College campus. He was taken to Kings County Hospital, where I found him on a gurney in an overcrowded room when I arrived.

Very close by was an older woman who had also been injured. There was a younger woman with her who appeared to be her niece. We couldn’t help but overhear their conversation. The older woman did not speak English, and the younger woman would translate when the doctors and nurses asked questions.

After a few hours, the younger woman had to leave and the older woman was on her own. At one point, when a doctor had some questions for her, someone brought a telephone to her bedside and got an interpreter on the line.

Eventually, my husband was allowed to leave. By this time, there were visible bruises on his arms and legs. After getting out of bed gingerly, he got dressed, but his winter coat was hanging open.

As we passed the older woman’s bed on our way out, she beckoned my husband over. He stopped and bent down to hear what she was saying.

She didn’t say a word. Instead, she motioned for him to come closer. Still not speaking, she managed to sit up enough to reach for his coat and carefully button it up.

— Mikki Shaw

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Illustrations by Agnes Lee


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