‘My Girlfriend and I Wound Up in an Empty Dive Bar, Having a Drink’

Playing Pinochle

Dear Diary:

One day last winter, after brunch and a brisk walk around my Williamsburg neighborhood, my girlfriend and I wound up in an empty dive bar, having a drink and playing pinochle.

Between hands, we chatted with the bartender. She told us she had just moved up from Florida and was really excited to be living in the city.

“Welcome to New York!” I said. “Do you live around here?”

“No,” she said with a sigh, “I’m living in Manhattan. Brooklyn’s too expensive.”

— Dennis Kitchen

Family Portrait

Dear Diary:

One day in January, near the turnstile at the exit of the 125th Street subway station, something caught my eye: a sepia-toned photograph that showed what looked like three siblings sitting on a davenport.

The photo was dated December 1941. On the back were the children’s names and ages: Peter, 6; Emily, 3; and Thomas, 8.

They were in their Sunday best. Peter was wearing short pants and wire-frame glasses. He had a mischievous grin and was looking toward his older brother. Emily, a lovely bow holding her hair back, had the wary look of a girl who might at any moment be pranked by one or both her brothers. Thomas, handsome in knickers, looked directly into the camera. He appeared impatient, like he wanted to get away from the little kids.

The person who dropped it must be heartsick, I thought. It needed its proper home.

The parents’ names, Philomena and Edwin, were on the back as well. After an unsuccessful session with Ancestry at the library, I plugged Peter’s full name into Google and found his obituary. I learned that he had been preceded in death by his brother Thomas and survived by his sister Emily, whose married name was included.

I Googled Emily and learned that she lived in a small town in Colorado. Finding her address, I sent her a copy of the photo, with a note asking, “Is that you in the middle?”

I was rewarded with a beautiful note in return. The photo, she told me, had been taken by her father.

She and her brothers, she wrote, had grown up in Onalaska, Wis., and she had loved that davenport. Now she lived near her son and a lake and she had a view of the Rockies. I told her I had grown up in Stuyvesant Town, lived in Riverdale and had a view of the Hudson.

So far, we have learned that we both like nature, hiking and bird watching.

— Beth Connor

No. 6 Downtown

Dear Diary:

Last year in summer.
A man across the aisle from me
reading a newspaper.
On the back page in big enough letters
there was an ad
something about a poetry contest
but I had to squint
to read the fine print underneath
and I leaned forward maybe more than I realized
because when I glanced up
the man was looking at me.
Did I say
he was burly and wore a lot of jewelry,
a ring on practically every finger,
gold chains and a bright shirt, coral color,
and he was bald, I think.
The sort of person you might notice.
We had a brief conversation,
after which
I stared at my phone.

The train slowed for Union Square.
The man got up and stood beside my seat.
His rings clinked the pole.
As the doors opened, he said,

“Until this train ride,
I never heard of haiku.
Pleasure meeting you.”

Minding the gap,
he was gone.

— Jane Wallace Pearson

Hungarian Pastry Shop

Dear Diary:

My fiancé and I got engaged in February at the People’s Garden on 111th Street and Amsterdam Avenue.

Afterward, we walked to one of our favorite places in the city, the Hungarian Pastry Shop, to celebrate.

The people who were working that day had graciously reserved a table for us and hidden a bottle of Champagne in the kitchen. They offered us anything we wanted on the house, took photos and videos and announced our engagement to everyone in the crowded shop. It was truly a memorable day.

Several months later, we returned to the shop for the first time since our engagement. When it was our turn to order, the woman at the counter recognized us immediately.

“It’s you!” she said. “You are still together!”

— Alissa Auerbach

Close Enough

Dear Diary:

One night in the early 1980s, I had dinner at my parents’ apartment on the Upper West Side. It was late and I had to work in the morning, so I decided to splurge on a cab. I hailed one on Columbus Avenue, and gave the driver my address in the East Village.

After the cab turned onto my street, the driver pulled over half a block from my apartment. He turned to look at me.

“Is it OK. if I let you out here?” he asked.

“Sure,” I said, reaching for my wallet. “But why?”

“This is where I live,” he said, pointing toward one of the buildings. “Since there is a parking space, I’d like to go up and eat supper with my wife before I finish my shift.”

— Al Vyssotsky

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Illustrations by Agnes Lee

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