‘My Heart Started Pounding When I Realized I Was That Someone’

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Dear Diary:

As I sat finishing a burger on the Dumbo pier while waiting for the ferry to come in, I watched tourists taking selfies and enjoying burgers of their own. We all were feeling happy and free.

I watched a sparrow hop toward a translucent, melted, gummy-candy blob that was stuck to the pier and peck its tiny beak into it.

To my surprise, it stayed there. No matter how much the bird flapped its wings, it was stuck. It tried to use its feet to leverage itself free, but only wound up getting its feet stuck too.

Someone must help this bird, I thought.

I stood up to look for someone who might come to the rescue, but no one else seemed to notice what was happening. My heart started pounding when I realized I was that someone.

I went over and spilled some seltzer on the bird’s beak, which allowed it to raise its head. I tried pouring a little on its feet, but they were too stuck for it to make a difference.

Thinking of all the reasons one might not touch a bird, I got out my handkerchief anyway and scooted the sparrow gently from behind. The bird popped off the blob and flew away.

My boat pulled in and I got on, just like everyone else, except that I felt like a hero.

— Michele Mirisola

Dear Diary:

On a rainy Queens Saturday in early 1968 — or was it 1969? — my buddies Andy, Carl, Charlie and I gathered for our weekly two-on-two basketball game.

Rather than play outside, Carl, who was a student at St. John’s at the time, suggested we go to the university’s gym.

There was a game scheduled for that evening, but the building was open and it seemed empty. As we walked down a hallway toward the polished wood floor, who should emerge from his office but Lou Carnesecca, the venerable St. John’s coach.

“What are you doing here?” he asked.

Just looking to play some hoops, Coach, we said.

“Get out of here,” he said, not unkindly.

We did.

— Danny Domoff

Dear Diary:

I was on the Q heading to a job interview. I looked down and noticed that my left sleeve was unbuttoned. I tried to button it back up a few times, but I was so nervous about the interview that my hands were shaking.

An older woman who was sitting next to me noticed that I was struggling.

“Do you want me to help you?” she asked softly.

“Yes, please,” I said, blushing and moving my arm toward her.

She carefully buttoned the sleeve, and we rode in silence the rest of the way. When we got to my stop, I looked back and gave her a nod as I got off the train. She smiled back at me.

I got the job.

— Abigail Murray

Dear Diary:

On one of the winter’s last snowy evenings, I was walking through the Village, heading for an uptown train with my umbrella, scarf and galoshes and intent on avoiding the icy spots on the pavement.

A young man, probably in his mid-20s, in a black pea coat and hoodie, approached me. I was prepared for him to ask me directions to the New School or the PATH train.

He stopped directly in front of me with a guileless look on his face.

“Tell me something about life,” he said.

Interesting assignment.

“It’s important to be present,” I said. “Stay in each moment as long as you can.”

He was still looking at me.

“And put worry away; it’s generally useless.”

He continued to stand there.

“That OK?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said, and then he walked off through the snow.

— Robert Moulthrop

Dear Diary:

My college roommate grew up in the suburbs in Massachusetts and moved to Texas shortly afterward. Years later, he came to visit me in New York for a weeklong stay.

I picked him up at the airport in Newark, and as we drove back to my apartment and caught up on each other’s lives, we talked about what we would do and where we would go during his stay.

It quickly became evident that the idea of relying on mass transit and walking for day-to-day tasks and activities was new to him.

As we pulled into my building’s garage, he asked whether he should leave his jacket in the car for later.

“You don’t understand,” I said. “We don’t see the car again until you go back to the airport.”

— Brian Jaffe

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Illustrations by Agnes Lee

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