‘We Walked Through the Downpour to the Closest Train Station’


Dear Diary:

My fiancé and I rode our bikes to Manhattan from Brooklyn last summer to meet some friends for an outdoor restaurant dinner.

As dinner ended, it began to rain — hard. We couldn’t bike back home, so we walked through the downpour to the closest train station.

Drenched, we carried our bikes down to the platform, where we saw a group of teenagers. They were a little rowdy but harmless and waiting for an uptown train, which pulled in just as the lights of the train we were waiting for started to shine down the tunnel.

Just then, without the teenagers noticing, a skateboard that belonged to one of them slipped and rolled onto the tracks. As the uptown train’s doors opened, the board’s owner turned around to grab it, only to see it where it had fallen with a train bearing down.

The teen hesitated. He was clearly considering going onto the tracks as his friends held open the doors and yelled at him to leave the board where it was.

With only seconds to spare, a transit worker who had witnessed the entire turn of events yelled from across the way and pulled out a walkie-talkie. The downtown train screeched to a halt a few feet in front of the skateboard.

The conductor put on a neon vest, swung open the train’s front door and hopped down onto the tracks. He grabbed the skateboard and handed it to the boy, who sprinted to the uptown train. His friends were still pushing against the closing doors.

— Elizabeth Blue Guess

Friendship Test

Dear Diary:

I was at the dry cleaner. A woman came in with an ungainly heavy bundle, which she dumped onto the counter. It was a patterned comforter completely covered with stains.

“My friend’s cat threw up all over my bed,” she said. “Can you clean this?”

“That will be $50,” the woman behind the counter said.

“She must be a very good friend,” I said.

“She is not a friend anymore,” the woman replied.

— Patricia Rich

Slim Rose

Dear Diary:

On a Saturday morning in the fall of 1963, I and two of my Villanova University freshman friends boarded a train from Philadelphia to New York. We were on our way to the legendary record shop in the subway arcade at the Times Square station.

The shop, Times Square Records, was owned by Irving Rose, who was known as Slim. It had become a mecca for teenage boys and young men in cities along the East Coast who were fans of what is today called doo-wop music.

Animated and loud in our black leather car jackets and pompadours, my friends and I annoyed the other passengers of the train arguing the merits of our favorite singing groups and composing “want” lists of the records we hoped to buy when we got to New York.

After the train arrived at Grand Central, we made our way to 42nd Street and Broadway, only to find that the store did not open for an hour.

We went to Grant’s cafeteria in Times Square and, seated at the lunch counter, we continued to discuss doo-wop music and our want lists.

A tall, slender man with thick glasses who was sitting to our right regarded us wearily as he read the newspaper and ate a sandwich.

At 10 minutes to the hour, he got up and made a motion indicating to the counterman that he was paying for our lunches.

“Follow me,” he said listlessly.

When we reached the door, the counterman shouted.

“Thanks, Slim,” he said. “See you tomorrow.”

— Craig Long

The Handoff

Dear Diary:

It was 1995. My wife and I had a 6-month-old daughter, and my wife, a musician, had just returned to work.

Her job often started in the evening before I got home from mine. She would take the train to the subway stop that was right below the building where I worked. I would be waiting there at the turnstile, and she would get off the train and hand the baby over to me before running back to get on the train again.

She usually had to wait for the next train, but on this particular day, the train she had gotten off was still in the station and she was able to return to the seat she had been sitting in.

The woman who was sitting next to her was visibly perplexed. She waited as long as she could before saying something.

“What did you do to that baby you were holding?” she blurted out.

— Nitash Balsara

Laces and Canes

Dear Diary:

I was walking to work one day when I noticed an elegantly dressed older woman who was walking with a cane. Her shoelace was untied.

I stopped her and began to tie it for her.

“I am a mess today and I detest these thin shoelaces,” she said in lovely British accent.

I said that she was stunning, and she thanked me profusely.

Arriving at that elevator bank at my office, I saw an older man who also had a cane and an untied shoelace.

Do I? Yes!

“Have I got a gal for you,” I said to him.

— Nancy Hafter

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Illustrations by Agnes Lee

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