After the Split
At around 6:30 on an unusually warm October evening, I was standing near the QM2 bus stop at 55th Street and Sixth Avenue. I was holding a bouquet of flowers I had bought for my grandmother’s 82nd birthday.
That morning, my boyfriend — no, ex — and I had parted ways at the Lexington Avenue Station. He transferred to the No. 4 toward the World Trade Center. I stayed on the N.
As breakups go, it was amicable. We expressed our mutual appreciation, lamented the poor timing and wished each other well.
I buzzed at work that day, knocking out task after task, taking a long lunchtime stroll through Central Park with my favorite colleague and celebrating my newfound freedom as a single 23-year-old.
But as dusk fell in its deceptively vibrant blue, the finality of our goodbye settled over me, and my tears started to fall as I stood at the bus stop. Amid the passing headlights and evening commuters, I did not try to hold them back.
Then I felt a tap on my shoulder, and an older man stepped up to the curb.
“Don’t cry, miss,” he said, leaning on his cane. “The bus will be here soon.”
— Grace Kim
The Right Stuff
My husband and I were leaving our community garden on West 48th Street. Wanting coffee, we walked west toward the Hudson.
On our way, we stopped to chat with a parks worker who was holding an aerosol spray can while trying to remove some graffiti from the sign with the maple leaf logo hanging outside the park at 48th Street and Tenth Avenue.
We admired his work and discussed the quality of the graffiti.
“What are you using to remove that?” my husband asked.
The man glanced down at the label of the can and then looked back up.
“Graffiti remover,” he said.
— Laralu Smith
I had traveled about 40 minutes on the Q to my regular barbershop on 57th Street and 10th Avenue, across from the office I don’t think I’ll ever return to.
The barber who took me spoke little English and engaged in no small talk, just as I prefer. Threading his hands through my hair, he lifted the strands to snip, comb and repeat. It felt comfortable and routine again.
Then, as he pushed my head downward to trim along the nape of my neck, I suddenly felt the scissors stop. Slamming them down beneath the mirror, the barber rushed out the door and began to run down the block.
I watched it all through the window, a long flop of hair he had just abandoned drooping over my forehead. Everyone else there seemed unfazed. What had happened? I had no idea.
Minutes later, the barber returned. He was sweating. He continued the haircut as if nothing had happened. He didn’t say anything, and neither did I.
When he finished, I tipped him with a few folded bills.
“Thank you,” he replied, the most he had said to that point. “Generous.”
— Dillon Fernando
I was eating a sesame bagel and leisurely drinking coffee at a bagel shop when a young woman at an adjoining table asked if I would watch her laptop. She said she would be back shortly.
A half-hour later, she had not returned.
Two construction workers in hard hats sat down at the table she had vacated.
“I’d like to ask you for a favor,” I said to them, explaining about the laptop. “I thought she went next door to the health food store. I have to leave.”
“Maybe she went for a job interview,” one of the men said.
“She was properly dressed in a suit,” I said. “But why not take her laptop along?”
“Maybe she went to visit her boyfriend,” the other man said.
“Possibly,” I said. “But again, why not take the laptop along?”
“Wherever she is, she knows the laptop is safe with you,” the first man said. “But we’ll watch it.”
I thanked them and left. Later, I worried that I had not behaved responsibly. So, the next day I went to the bagel shop to make sure it was intact.
To my relief, it was.
— Helen Tzagoloff
One day, I arrived at a client’s office at 80th Street and East End Avenue and was shocked to discover that my wallet was missing. I remembered I had put it on my lap to read a phone number while making a call on the M79.
As I tried to reached the M.T.A.’s lost and found, I got a call from the bus driver. Someone had turned in my wallet. We proceeded to spend about two hours trying to schedule a meeting somewhere on his route. Eventually, we agreed to meet at Fifth Ave and 79th Street.
My wife and I arrived just as the bus pulled in. After the passengers boarded, I got on and introduced myself.
The driver handed me the wallet with everything intact. I asked him what I could give him in return. He said he could not accept a reward.
“You’re an angel,” my wife said as we left.
“That’s my name,” he said.
— Arthur King
Illustrations by Agnes Lee