‘She Proceeded to Empty the Bag’s Contents Onto the Small Table’

Her Bag

Dear Diary:

I was walking to the 6 train on a winter day after spending a few hours at the Metropolitan Museum of Art when I decided to stop for a cup of tea and a bagel with a schmear.

I found a small table next to two sisters who were engaged in a lively conversation and appeared to be in their 20s.

An older woman sat down on the other side of them. One of the younger women complimented her on her purse.

“That’s an Alexander McQueen bag,” the woman replied. “It cost me hundreds of dollars and I absolutely hate it!”

She proceeded to empty the bag’s contents onto the small table where she was sitting.

“I’m giving you the bag,” she said, putting it in front of the younger woman who had admired it. “I don’t want it any longer.”

The younger woman was clearly taken aback.

“I can’t take your bag!” she said.

“I insist,” the older woman said, stuffing the emptied contents into an old, worn backpack and then walking out of the shop.

— Julie Livingston

Cycling Through the Summer

Dear Diary:

The squirrel squashed on the city street
soon becomes the raptor’s treat
until it flees the boy on a bike
who’s stopped to scratch a mosquito bite
and starts to digest these lessons on life
as red flips to green on the traffic light.

— Tom Furlong

Harry Belafonte’s Shirt

Dear Diary:

It was the late 1950s. I was a freshman at City College and pledging a fraternity. The frat brothers often tormented us with outlandish commands. One was particularly far-fetched: obtain one of Harry Belafonte’s dazzling shirts.

Mr. Belafonte was performing regularly in New York at the time. I determined which hotel he was staying at and, with uncharacteristic chutzpah, I called the switchboard and demanded to be put through to his room.

To my amazement, I was. Harry Belafonte was actually on the line! Stammering out my story, I explained my mission: Obtain one of his shirts.

He actually chuckled. He couldn’t give me one of his shirts, he said, but he could, and would, autograph one of mine.

I selected a favorite shirt, and my mother sewed a blank piece of white cloth into it for a nameplate.

On the chosen night, I and a fellow pledge attended a performance by Mr. Belafonte as his guests. Afterward, we went backstage, where, as promised, he signed his name on the tag in my shirt.

Eventually, after the shirt was worn and washed many times, the name disappeared. And I was left with a blank space where Harry Belafonte’s autograph had been.

— Ralph Blumenthal

Parking Proposal

Dear Diary:

It was fall 1980, and I was trying to find a parking spot on East 68th Street somewhere between York and Second Avenue.

Eventually, I found a spot that was good until the next day. Then, I saw a spot open up across the street, and it was good for two days.

I wanted that spot because I wanted to stay over with my sort-of boyfriend, who lived in the neighborhood.

A man pulled up as if to back into the two-day spot. I begged him to trade with me.

“OK,” he said. “If you go out with me.”

He stopped traffic with his car and, with horns honking around us, we swapped spots.

I went on two dates with him. In summer 1981, I married the sort-of boyfriend. Forty-two years later, I can tell you it was the right decision.

— Ruth Rosenstein

‘I Love New York’

Dear Diary:

There is a bench in Central Park that I love to sit on. It is dedicated to Steve Karmen, who wrote the “I Love New York” jingle. The bench faces the Central Park carousel. I sometimes spend hours there, daydreaming and watching the children’s happy faces.

One beautiful afternoon, I was sitting on the bench and humming the jingle when I saw an older woman with a cane walking as fast she could toward the carousel.

She was smiling from ear to ear but she was moving so fast that I feared she might fall down. I assumed she was excited because she was meeting her grandchildren and was in a hurry to see them.

I instinctively stood up to be nearby and ready should anything happen to her, so I was close enough to hear her speak to the attendant as she got to the ticket booth.

“Hello,” she said. “How much is a ride?”

“$3.25,” the attendant said.

“Give me two,” the woman said. “Once I am on that horse, it’s tough for me to get down.”

— Nadia Miller

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Illustrations by Agnes Lee

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