I was living on the Upper West Side, which meant every subway trip started with me taking the B or C to 59th Street.
And so, one muggy August morning, it was only after I was already on the train to Brooklyn for brunch at a friend’s place that I pulled up the Sunset Park address on my phone.
It took more than an hour to get there. When I finally did, I peeked through the apartment door and saw a half-dozen people happily jabbering away.
Long after the dishes had been cleared, I excused myself: I had another get-together that evening, so I had to take the subway back uptown to unwind before going out again.
After getting home, I took a late-afternoon nap, then woke up, topped off my water bottle and headed back to the subway.
As the train lumbered past 86th Street, I dredged up the address of where I was going. I blinked several times. It had to be a mistake. I checked the original email. It was no mistake.
I texted the friend who had hosted brunch that morning: “Looks like I’m having dinner with your downstairs neighbor.”
— Jeffrey Zuckerman
Wah Fung No. 1 Fast Food
My sister wanted me to know that she loved me, but also, when was I going to move out? A week of apartment searching had turned into two weeks, then three.
It wasn’t supposed to be this hard. I wasn’t being picky. I had already given up on my foolish dream of a bedroom window. Dozens of visits across Brooklyn and Queens had gotten me nowhere.
On my fourth week of failure, I sat outside Wah Fung No. 1 Fast Food and buried my tears in a $4 box of barbecue pork.
What did this city have against me? I wanted to give up.
A man on nearby bench looked over and, totally unprompted, offered me a cigarette. I guess I looked like I needed one.
Sometimes I still regret not smoking that cigarette. But the gesture itself was such an honor: New York City had offered me a minute.
— Robert Yang
It was a rainy night, and I was on the way home from a date in Brooklyn. I contemplated the journey back to Manhattan and treated myself to a shared ride.
The car picked up one other rider. As he got in, I reached for my headphones and prepared to spend the journey in companionable silence.
Then he started talking.
“What brings you out to Brooklyn?” he said.
“A date,” I said with a wink, pleased with myself.
He asked how we had met. With a sigh, I mentioned a dating app.
We began to lament the dating scene. It’s all on apps these days, and no one’s confident enough to strike up a conversation. No more classic New York meet-cutes.
We spent the next 40 minutes talking about our jobs, our lives in New York, our plans for the weekend. He made me smile, and I made him laugh.
It grew quiet, and we watched the rain hit the window. I had the river view, and my eyes passed over the Pepsi-Cola sign.
“It’s so funny, isn’t it?” I said.
He asked what was so funny.
I realized I didn’t know, so I said, “New York.” He agreed.
We pulled up to his stop.
“Well, I don’t think it’s going to work out with Brooklyn boy,” he said with a smile. “You’ll never be able to keep up this commute.”
— Virginia Girard
Far From Oz
It was another afternoon rush hour on the subway. The train car I was on was packed with a standing-room-only crowd.
Trying to figure out where to plant my gaze while avoiding eye-contact, I looked down at the floor. My eyes focused on a pair of ruby red slippers, sparkly, newish-looking and totally out of place so far from Oz.
I couldn’t help it. My eyes drifted up to the face of a young woman who was staring directly at me with an expectant look on her face.
I felt compelled to say something.
“Uh, do they work?” I stammered.
“Well,” the young woman said, “when I click my heels together three times, my roommate from Kansas walks in the room.”
We were at my stop.
“Good answer,” I said. “Goodbye.”
— Tom Zebovitz
I was rushing to pick up an order at a restaurant in Chinatown and I was flustered when I came through the door.
“I’m picking up an order of rice rolls, milk tea and one other thing that I don’t remember,” I said to the host.
“Pickup for rice rolls, milk tea and a don’t-know-what!” he shouted to the back of the shop.
They found my order.
— SengMing Tan
Illustrations by Agnes Lee