‘I Stood on the Sidewalk Outside the Hall and Held Up the Extra Ticket’

Extra Ticket

Dear Diary:

It was April 1992, and I had two tickets for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall with Daniel Barenboim conducting.

The person I had invited to join me was unable to come, so at five minutes before 8 p.m., I did something I had never done before: I stood on the sidewalk outside the hall and held up the extra ticket to see if I could find a taker.

A man approached me, asked for a discount and we completed the transaction.

We sat next to each other, and the rest is history. I had just turned 40, he was 45 and neither of us had been married. We got engaged that August and married in October, 30 years ago last month.

Happy Anniversary, my love.

— Jane Moos Cohen

Pen and Paper

Dear Diary:

One evening over the summer, I called an Uber to take me home from a late dinner with an old friend in Greenpoint.

When I got into the car, I exchanged pleasantries with the driver, a stocky man around 60 who was wearing a blue baseball hat. Then I began to doze off.

An abrupt stop at a traffic light soon awoke me. Opening my eyes, I saw the driver writing with a blue pen on a long, yellow notepad.

The pad was thick, and he appeared to be nearing the final page. He paused, looked around for a few seconds and returned to writing.

The honking of horns let us know that the light had changed. Every time the car stopped after that, whether because of traffic or a red light, the driver turned back to his pen and paper.

I watched, curiously. Was he an undiscovered literary talent? A poet? The lines on the page seemed far too long for that. A novelist or comedian maybe?

Perhaps he was writing about me. Did he write down every detail about each fare he picked up and make up stories about them?

“I hope you don’t mind me asking,” I said as we pulled up in front of my building. “But what are you writing?”

He answered without turning around.

“Words,” he said.

— Lev Gordon

Thursday Night on Rockaway Beach

Dear Diary:

red sky full moon
September on
the beach our backs
to the dunes we had
seltzer and sandwiches
watching two girls
playing in the surf
laughing screaming
until a ranger made
them stop he should
have let them shriek me
too cold shy afraid of
the Atlantic so many
reasons to stay on the sand
on a bright moon night at the
end of summer I wish I’d
joined them been reckless
enough long enough
to dive in and
scream with joy.

— Adria Quiñones

Hiking Up

Dear Diary:

I joined the morning throng on the escalator descending into the 83rd Street entrance to the Q train, which must be among the steepest in Manhattan.

On this morning, the up escalator was not working. Dozens of people were on the way down, but only one person, a man, was coming up on the opposite side, step by methodical step (I’ve counted 130 while making the climb during other outages).

This man was handling the ascent with ease and grace. He was dressed in a crisp suit and tie, notable compared with the clothes being worn by those in the crowd headed down. He had a cellphone pressed against his head as he climbed and was waving his free arm wildly.

Looking down at him from above, it was hard to tell if he was gesturing in happiness or anger.

At one point, he stopped abruptly on the motionless stairs, stood stock-still and leaned into his phone. As the escalator continued down, I got close enough to hear what he was saying.

Suddenly, he shouted into the phone, his voice booming loud.

“No, you listen!” he yelled at whomever was on the other end of the call. He was holding the phone directly in front of his mouth. “The only thing I need from you — right now — is for you to pretend that you understand what I’m telling you!”

And then I had passed him. I looked back over my shoulder and saw that he had renewed his uphill hike. But his words hung in the air. And by the time I got to the platform, they made perfect sense in my mind.

— HP Newquist

Dating Game

Dear Diary:

My girlfriend and I were having a cocktail at a restaurant in my East Side neighborhood when a woman I had dated briefly came in and spotted me.

She approached our table. As I greeted her and introduced my companion, she interjected to say that she hadn’t contacted me because she was in a relationship.

I was tongue-tied, but my girlfriend was not.

“So is he,” she quickly replied.

— Herb Fishman

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Illustrations by Agnes Lee

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