‘The Driver Spent the 20-Minute Trip Telling Me Why I Shouldn’t Be Sad’

Sticky Night

Dear Diary:

It was a hot summer night. I was 22, and the boy I was dating had just come home from a film shoot in Berlin.

We had fought over email the entire time he was away, and the fighting continued in person when he returned. We walked around Washington Square Park in circles for hours through an impossibly sticky night made even stickier by the tears and shouting.

At 3 a.m., he ended it while hailing me a cab. Stunned, I dropped into the back seat, an air-conditioned oasis of cool.

Once the cab was speeding uptown, I lost it. The driver spent the 20-minute trip telling me why I shouldn’t be sad, that whoever was meant for me would never make me cry like that.

He told me about his happy marriage and three young kids, and when we got to my building, he idled there with the meter off until I was able to laugh at one of his jokes.

I knew then I was home.

— Alyssa Shapiro


Dear Diary:

I was visiting my brother in New York in winter 2004. He took me to dinner at Honmura An in SoHo.

Two people soon were seated next to us.

“Yoko Ono,” Matt mouthed. “Sean Lennon.”

We feigned New York cool, not interrupting or acknowledging them while we all enjoyed our delicious Japanese noodle dinners.

A few nights later, we were at the Park Avenue Armory for the winter antiques show. And there she was again: Yoko Ono.

She pointed at my brother.

“You were at Honmura An the other night!” she said.

Fame works two ways, I guess.

— Tavenner Hall


Dear Diary:

I boarded a 1 train at Chambers Street and took a seat in the middle of a half-empty car. It wasn’t until we reached Penn Station that I noticed my charcoal likeness in the open sketchbook of the older man sitting next to me.

I sat as still as I could until 50th Street while he finished sketching. He signed the page, tore it carefully along the perforation and handed it to me without a word.

“This is great,” I said. “Do you do this often?”

“Every day,” he replied. “On a different train.”

“Which one tomorrow?”

“The 6.”

We spoke a while longer. He told me about his time as a city worker and why he used charcoal. I rode two extra stops so we could finish the conversation.

I found a $10 bill in my wallet and thanked him for the picture and the chat.

“I’ll see you again,” he said.

“I sure hope so,” I said.

I happily walked the 19 blocks home.

— Renato de Angelis

Last Night Was a Movie

Dear Diary:

“Last night was a movie,” Swati said as she bit into her sandwich.

We had all gone out the night before to celebrate Faiz’s birthday at an open mic night at Harlem Nights, where neon lights illuminated tipsy faces and a singular disco ball twirled at the front of the stage.

I was immediately enchanted by the place’s energy: Strangers fist-bumped one another, dancers grooved to jazzy tunes and servers holding trays of margaritas weaved through the crowd.

“What’s up, Swati?” the M.C., rocking dreads and sunglasses, said. “You goin’ up tonight?”

“You know it,” Swati said. “I’m singing something I wrote this morning.”

Throughout the show, we were treated to a parade of musical geniuses: a performer who was born for Bruno Mars ballads, a saucy artist with a homemade knit beanie and a rapper who defied the laws of oxygen.

“Whose birthday is it?” the M.C. called out at intermission. “Let’s sing for you!”

We cheered for Faiz as he took the stage.

“Can I get on the drums?” he asked.

The M.C. lowered his sunglasses to get a clearer look at Faiz’s face.

“Do you play?” he asked.

Taking the question as an invitation, Faiz picked up the sticks and hit a flawless intro fill. The crowd went wild. The band quickly picked up on his beat and played the melody.

The backup singers jumped in on the next chords, cuing the audience to sing “Happy birthdayyy to youuu…” in perfect harmony. We had created the coolest rock rendition of “Happy Birthday” ever.

The entire bar chanted Faiz’s name as he came off the stage, his flushed face beaming.

“Best birthday ever,” he said.

Yes, last night was a movie.

— Laura Yin

‘What About New York?’

Dear Diary:

I was walking south toward Penn Station and my train home at the end of a long day when I overheard the two people walking together in front of me.

“L.A. is tough,” one said. “It’s all about looks. If you don’t look good, it’s hard to get anywhere.”

“What about New York?” the other asked.

“New York?” the first person replied. “New York is more about brains than looks.”

— Frederick Hurford

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Illustrations by Agnes Lee

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