‘My Eyes Landed on Something I Didn’t Know I Was Looking For’

Dear Diary:

I was hurrying down Third Avenue early one evening at the time of year when it’s already pitch dark by then.

An older woman was shuffling up the street in the opposite direction, one gloved hand tightly clutching the lapels of a bulky coat. As I passed her, I saw a leash attached to an empty collar trailing from her other hand.

I almost stopped and said something, but mind-my-own-business excuses kept my mouth closed and my feet moving.

She must know it is empty, I thought to myself. Perhaps this was a ritual, walking the same walk with a dog that could no longer accompany her. I dismissed the encounter from my mind and continued on my way.

A block and a half later, my eyes landed on something I didn’t know I was looking for: a tiny white poodle with no leash and no collar that was wandering timidly among a crowd of people waiting for the light to change.

“Is this your dog?” I asked generally, already knowing the answer.

Scooping the poodle into my arms without thinking about whether it was friendly, I began to run back the way I had come. I kept wondering what would I do if the woman had already turned off Third Avenue. As I ran, the dog snuggled against me.

Near the next corner, I saw the woman again, her coat flapping open as she hurried down the street.

Her eyes were searching the sidewalk so frantically that she would have passed me if I hadn’t stopped her and held out her joyfully wriggling poodle.

— Jane Excell


Dear Diary:

It was 1985 and the first day of my internship at the Metropolitan Museum. I entered at the employee entrance as instructed and was then guided to an elevator.

When the elevator stopped at the first floor, a museum worker pushed a wheelchair and in it was Louise Nevelson. I knew it was her by her mink eyelashes.

I could not believe my eyes. Like Ms. Nevelson, I am a sculptor, and she was someone I had read books about, studied and admired.

“I have always admired your artwork,” I said.

“Thank you,” she replied, and then slowly and carefully lifted her hand for me to shake.

— Pamela C. Tippman


Dear Diary:

In the early 1970s, I was a new teacher going to grad school two nights a week. I would ride the subway home from work, take a short nap, have a quick meal and then drive 15 minutes to Queens College, where I would begin to look for a parking space. Finding one was always a challenge.

One evening, after circling and circling to no avail, I saw a Dodge Dart trying to squeeze into a space that was way too small for it, but just the right size for my tiny Mercury Capri.

I pulled up behind the Dodge and waited for the woman who was driving it to give up and leave.

But she kept trying, pulling out and backing in from different angles and approaches, and refusing to accept that the space was simply too small for her car.

Finally, after waiting several minutes, and with my class starting soon, I poked my head out of the window.

“Come on,” I shouted, “you can’t get in that space!”

“Not with you watching me, I can’t!” she shouted back.

— Jay Stonehill


Dear Diary:

How odd these solitary birds,
their hunter hearts boiling
together in a cauldron of air
high above the Hudson’s edge,
an eddy of raptor on raptor
heading south before the winter
swept in a dizzy updraft
spiraling like leaves in a gust.

What is it like to lose
all sense of direction,
to melt as part and particle
of one another, to revolve
as stars in an avian galaxy?
Someday, I too will spin from
my bird body, become a dervish
of the wheeling wind.

— Richard Schiffman


Dear Diary:

We ventured out one afternoon to test my wife’s stamina while she was recovering from hip-replacement surgery.

After walking with a cane for a block or two, she became faint and started to breathe heavily. We found a seat and some shade in Richard Tucker Park, between Columbus Avenue and Broadway.

A woman who was sitting nearby offered her assistance, a generous vendor provided a bottle of water and my wife began to revive somewhat. She soon began to falter again, however, and I called 911.

Several firefighters responded, followed soon after by E.M.T.s. As my wife began to recover in the E.M.T.s’ vehicle, a woman came over and asked that they turn off the engine so she could eat her sandwich in peace while waiting for the downtown bus.