'I walked into a corner restaurant in Hell's Kitchen on a Sunday'


Dear Diary:

I walked into a corner restaurant in Hell's Kitchen on a Sunday night during a two-week trip to the city.

Everything on the menu looked good. As I was trying to decide what soup to order, a plate arrived for a man who was sitting alone next to me.

“What soup is that?” I said after she tried it for the first time.

I immediately regretted asking. This was New York and my talk felt out of place. Don't be annoying, I thought to myself.

The man turned to me.

“It's the leek,” he said. “He's delicious. Besides, I'm glad you're sitting here. The couple who just left… that man's voice was so annoying!”

-Megan Moore

Dear Diary:

It was 96 degrees and carousel music was playing as I approached the scholars organizing the annual Walt Whitman celebration in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

I asked if there was room for another reader and was told to talk to the woman in blue. She was a literature teacher and had the last word.

When I spoke to the woman in blue, she told me that participants had to register online.

I wanted to read, so I told the truth.

“I'm kind of important,” I said. “Your audience will love me.”

With a look of uncertainty, he handed me the microphone. And with the Brooklyn Bridge as a backdrop, I borrowed a book from a woman standing there, looked out at the audience, and uttered my barbaric howl.

Sometimes with someone I love, I am filled with rage for fear of spilling unrequited love;
But now I believe there is no unrequited love: the pay is certain one way or another;
(I loved a certain person ardently, and my love was not reciprocated;
However, from that I have written these songs.)

When I bowed and began to say goodbye, the people cheered. As I left the stage, I realized for the first time what it felt like to be acquitted.

—Danny Klecko

Dear Diary:

A group of people were standing on a corner in the Flatiron district, all looking up at a tall, old building.

I asked a young woman in the crowd what everyone was looking at.

I don't know! she said.

I asked the same question to a middle-aged man nearby.

“I have no idea,” he said.

They both continued looking up.

– Felice Aull

Dear Diary:

Although my parents were New Yorkers, I grew up in a small town outside of Cleveland, where my parents moved in 1969.

After graduating from college and then touring North America for a year with two friends, I ended up spending the scorching summer of 1988 with my grandmother in a tenement in the Parkchester neighborhood of the Bronx.

I loved the way the disparate group of tenants participated in each other's lives in small ways each day. Two of my favorite residents were older sisters who lived nine floors above my grandmother. Regardless of when I met them, they seemed to have had a few cocktails.

One Saturday morning, I picked up the phone and heard one of the sisters formally introduce herself and ask if she could come help with a small favor.

When I knocked on their door, it opened to reveal the sisters side by side. One quickly turned around and headed for the freezer. He opened it, took out a small package wrapped in aluminum foil, and turned to me.

He said his budgie Crackers had died a few weeks earlier. Would he be willing to bury the beloved bird outside the building?

I went down with the special load, then went out the door and went around the back. I heard the sisters calling to me from above, guiding me a little to the left, a little closer to a large tree and finally stopping.

I dug a small hole and put Crackers to rest. I had no doubt that a few more dry sherries would be hoisted that day.

—Kevin Clegg

Dear Diary:

It was a few years ago, and I was a third-year obstetrics resident at a major hospital in New York City.

After a particularly grueling week, I finally settled down to sleep in the hospital's first-floor call room. Within minutes, my pager rang and I was called to perform a C-section on the top floor.

With teary eyes, I entered the elevator and pressed the button. Halfway there, the elevator jerked to a stop and went dark.

Using the elevator phone, I called the ward nurse.

“I'm stuck in the elevator and I need you to grab one of the other residents to do the C-section,” I told her. “Also, call maintenance, but tell them not to rush.”

I hung up, curled up in a corner of the elevator, and immediately fell asleep.

The next thing I knew, the doors opened and a maintenance man got into the car.

I blinked.

“Coming soon?” I said.

He gave me a puzzled look.

“Ma'am,” he said, “you've been stuck here for two hours.”

—Emily Hartzog

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Illustrations by Agnes Lee

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