New York

‘I Checked the Counter and the Floor, but I Couldn’t Find It Anywhere’

Dear Diary:

I had a job at a cafe on the Upper East Side. When I was first hired, the owner taught me how to froth milk for the perfect latte using very cold milk and a small metal cup.

One very busy morning I was making lattes by frothing the milk directly in the paper to-go cups. This was a huge faux pas, but also a great time saver.

After the morning rush ended, I noticed that the small metal cap that screws onto the nozzle and directs the steam was missing.

I checked the counter and the floor, but I couldn’t find it anywhere. Eventually, I realized that it must have fallen into a drink. My mind filled with an upsetting thought: What if someone swallows it and chokes?

As closing time neared, I was moping behind the bar when a woman stepped one foot into the cafe, shook a to-go coffee cup like a maraca, pulled out the missing cap and placed it on a nearby counter.

“Thought you might want this back,” she said.

— Danielle Manno


Dear Diary:

I was walking across a relatively quiet Greenwich Village street on my lunch hour. I was nine months pregnant, wearing an ankle-length, black wool coat and feeling very much like a hippo.

As I lumbered across the street, I spotted a tall, thin young man on the opposite sidewalk cracking a leather whip. I noticed that he had several more whips curled at his feet.

When I got to the curb, we looked at each other. He raised the hand holding the whip toward me and asked if I wanted one.

“Do I look like I need one of those?” I asked.

He gave me a big, broad smile and returned to cracking the whip as I continued on my way.

— Robin Ritter


Dear Diary:

Nana’s smile
A torch of sunshine,
Beckoned me,
A gangly 10-year-old
Into that sparkling arena
Of blue water,
Where I followed her,
Dog paddling
Across its endless space
Splashing like a duckling,
Looking back
At the Coney Island Amusement Park
On that sweltering August day
Until Nana,
A bathing-capped New York goddess,
Signaled with one loud clap
The sign
To “get out now”
As oncoming thunder roared
Into a darkening sky.

— Kathryn Anne Sweeney-James


Dear Diary:

Last spring, I locked myself out of my apartment on the terrace. I had left my phone in the bedroom cycling through Janet Jackson’s “Control” before stepping outside. It was 2 p.m. on a weekday. I had my keys with me, but none of them fit the lock on the terrace door.

I told myself not to panic and began to shout.

“Help!”

Nothing.

“Hello? Can anyone hear me?”

Minutes passed. Then, I heard a woman’s voice.

“Shut up!” she said.

Relieved, I shouted my predicament. The woman offered to call my landlord.

“I don’t know his number,” I replied.

“Well, what do you want me to do?”

“Can I throw you my keys and you go into my building from the street and let me in?”

It seemed nuts, but the response surprised me.

“Yeah, all right, gimme a sec.”

I threw my keys over the railing, calculated how long it should take someone to round the block and began counting out Mississippis. I had gotten to 300 when the terrace door swung open and a boy leapt through it.

“I’m RJ” he said. “Your hero!”

A young woman whom I took to be his sister appeared behind him, and I began to gush thank-yous.

“Why were you out there?” she asked after we had stepped back inside.

I lifted a philodendron off the ground.

“I was repotting this,” I said. “Would you like it?”

She took the plant in one hand, grabbed RJ’s hand with the other and left.

A few days later, my roommate called me into his room.

“Look,” he said, gesturing toward the window.

There, on an otherwise empty windowsill on the adjacent building, was my plant.

— Helena LaPorte-Burns


Dear Diary:

I lived and worked as a teacher in East Harlem in the mid-1970s. Several evenings each week, I took a yoga class at East West Books on Fifth Avenue near 14th Street. The class would finish by 9 p.m., and I would take the No. 6 home.

One night after leaving class, I boarded a rather crowded car at the same time as a male passenger who had clearly spent some time at a local pub. Although harmless, he was verbally obnoxious.

“Is this 59th Street?” he shouted as the train made its stops on the way uptown.

When we stopped at Grand Central, he did it again.

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