I was on a B train in Brooklyn one Monday morning, and there were no empty seats.
I saw a passenger stand when the train got to DeKalb Avenue and was moving over to take his spot when a woman nearby spoke up.
“May I please have that seat, miss?” she said. “I have a pinched nerve in my back and it’s killing me.”
I said it was no problem and stood back so that she could sit.
“Thank you so much,” she said.
That evening, I met a friend for dinner on Grove Street and afterward we went to Marie’s Crisis for a bit.
As I sat on a stool near the piano, I noticed the woman from the B train sitting at the other end and I decided to approach her.
“Excuse me,” I said. “Didn’t we ride the B together this morning?”
“Yes!” she said. “Oh my God, thank you again for letting me have that seat.”
The piano player started into “Let’s Go Fly a Kite,” and we began to sing.
— Erica Buchman
My girlfriend had just gotten a job in New York after finishing law school, so we packed our meager belongings into an overly large rental truck one bright summer morning and drove off to begin our first attempt at urban living.
It would be an understatement to say we were anxious as we threaded the truck through Manhattan’s narrow side streets. Our anxiety peaked as we turned onto the street where our new apartment was.
Up ahead, a large moving van like ours was double-parked, leaving what seemed like an impossibly skinny lane for us to navigate.
Somehow, I knew this was our first test. Without slowing down, I squeezed the truck through the space with inches to spare on either side.
As I pulled up in front of our new address, a cabby yelled out his window as he whizzed by.
“Nice driving!” he shouted.
I hardly noticed the six flights up to the apartment.
— G. Steve Jordan
At the Deli
I used to stop at the deli near my apartment almost daily to pick up a few things.
One day, I was short a couple of dollars and asked the cashier if I could make up the difference the next time I was there. She said that was fine.
I stopped in the next day.
“I owe you some money,” I said.
She checked a note taped to the register with four or five amounts, with handwritten Korean-language characters next to each.
“$2.59,” she said.
“That’s correct,” I said. “But you don’t know my name. What is written there?”
“Big eyes,” she said without looking up. “$2.59.”
— Noelle Nichols
Lilacs and Tulips
While visiting my daughter in New York, I picked up some lilacs from a stand.
When I got to her apartment, I decided that they looked pretty slight. So I put $20 in my pocket and went out in search of a few more flowers to augment the lilacs.
I stopped at a store with various things for sale, including a few flowers. I found some special-looking tulips and asked the price.
The proprietor asked how many I wanted.
“About four,” I said.
He handed me four tulips.
“Have a happy Mother’s Day,” he said.
— Donna Thompson
Like Erroll Garner
As I entered the Columbus Circle subway station to catch the D train to Brooklyn, I noticed a man playing a keyboard and soliciting donations.
He was an older man — although probably younger than my 72 years — and the people who were nearby did not appear to be listening to him. I moved in closer and, a pianist myself, quickly realized he was excellent.
I dropped some money into his box, and when he finished the song he was playing, I told him his style reminded me of Erroll Garner.
His face brightened, we bumped fists and said Erroll Garner was his idol. He began to play a well-known Garner standard, and I said it was one of my favorite tunes to play.
He paused for a moment.
“Do you want to play it together?” he asked.
It had been well over a year since I had played with anyone, but he made room for me, and we started a duet. Our styles clicked right away, and people in the station began to draw near and toss money into his box.
With my train still not there, he asked if I knew Nina Simone’s “I Wish I Knew How it Would Feel to Be Free,” another song I love.
We started in, alternating solos and building in intensity as more people gathered and made donations.
As we brought it to a big conclusion, he asked my name and then introduced me to the crowd as if I were his special guest.
— Michael Esterowitz
Illustrations by Agnes Lee