It was a Monday morning in 1985 and I was late for work. I barely had time to put on makeup and brush my hair before rushing out the door to my Cobble Hill apartment.
When I got to the sidewalk, I hit my stride. With a Walkman stuck in my pocket and music filling my ears, I walked down the subway six blocks, happily jumping towards Madonna’s “Material Girl.”
I still had my headphones on when I got on the train. I quickly felt a wave of joy around me. Someone said something and people started to laugh. I didn’t pay any attention to it and kept my head down, glued to my music.
When the doors opened at the next stop, a woman in impeccable costume brushed past me as I stood by the door. She motioned for me to turn off my Walkman.
“You have your curlers,” she said.
– Reni Roxas
Every morning before I left for school, my mother gave me an emergency ward. It was back in the days when cell phones were a luxury and you couldn’t turn a corner in New York City without seeing a pay phone.
“Only use this if you absolutely have to,” she said, slipping the coin into my pocket, where it would be next to the one she had given me the day before.
I spent Fridays after school at a small hair salon in Corona, Queens, getting my hair cut myself or accompanying a friend who was getting one. Every Friday an older Dominican walked into the store pulling out a red and white camping cooler.
Inside the cooler was a black bag. Inside the bag was what I had hoped for all week.
The smell of fried dough would overwhelm the combined smell of talcum powder, barbicide, and bay rum that had lingered in the air all day. A well-trained nose could also pick up the scent of onions, olives and seasoned ground beef. Chicken too, if there was any left for the man.
“Empanadas, a dollar and twenty-five,” he yelled as the barbers continued to cut their hair without flinching.
Every Friday I dug deep in my pocket and fished for five quarters, one for each day of the week.
It’s an emergency as good as anything, I would tell myself before making my request.
“Do you have any chicken left?”
– Carlos Matias
It was my freshman year in college and I was new to New York. As part of a fine arts class, my classmates and I were sent to study various buildings in the city. Bonwit Teller, on Fifth Avenue, was one of them.
The mission asked us to describe the building, so I crossed the street to face it and started counting the number of floors.
I must have counted out loud, because when I got to “five” I stopped and a woman walking past turned her head towards me.
“Six,” she said over her shoulder, then continued on her way.
She was right. I hadn’t counted the first floor.
– Naomi Kassabian
From the top
I was on my way to meet my mother at an art gallery in Chelsea. As I crossed 10th Avenue and was about to disappear under the High Line, something hit my left shoulder with a squish and a thud.
I looked at the ground and saw the eye of a silver fish staring at me. I also noticed opalescent scales and some blood on my shoulder and back. I looked up and saw three gulls flying above my head, probably bringing dinner to the river in their beaks.
I immediately looked around to determine if anyone else saw what had happened. I waved to several teenage girls who were nearby.
“Did you see this?” I screamed.
They did and we all laughed about it. Then I sent a photo of the fish to my crush.
“I was touched by this fish,” I wrote. “I think it’s super good luck.”
A few hours later, she responded.
“I am a Pisces,” read the message.
– Neela Wickremesinghe
Finding a shortcut
My husband and I were recently married in February 1963 and we were rushing to what was still called Idlewild Airport for a flight to St. Croix for our honeymoon.
I was struggling with a large map and was trying to figure out how to get from Philadelphia to New York via the New Jersey Turnpike.
Noticing what I thought was a shortcut that might save us some time, I gave my husband new directions. Finally, we found ourselves blocked by large detour signs.
I saw a worker by the side of the road and rolled down the window.
“By where the Verrazano bridge?” I asked.
“Well, ma’am,” he said quite seriously, “if you come back to this time next year, you can be the first to cross.
– Kate Hall
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Illustrations by Agnes Lee