“I asked her if she had a general preference for black cats”
A well-dressed elderly woman wearing a faux alligator cat carrier walked into SoHo’s Best Friends Lifesaving Center recently asking to meet two specific black cats.
She filled out a form and washed her hands, and I took her to meet the cats. She chose the woman and we sat down to do the necessary paperwork.
I asked if she had a general preference for black cats.
She looked me up and down.
“No, darling,” she said. ” I have no preference. I just live in New York. I wear black everyday.
In Jackson Heights
I was walking down 34th Avenue in Jackson Heights on my way home from the local farmers market. It had been snowing all morning and the trees were covered in a shimmering blanket of white.
At one point I paused and pulled out my phone to try and capture the beauty of my neighborhood at that time.
A woman with a bag of groceries slung over her shoulder slowly approached where I had stood with my cart. I imagined him thinking that I was blocking his path and why – taking a picture of snow?
As she approached, she took a gloved hand, brushed some snow off a wrought iron fence beside the sidewalk, and scooped it up in the palm of her hand.
At that moment, our eyes met.
“I like to eat snow,” she said softly and with a hint of childish wonder and what I took to be a Colombian accent.
We both smiled as she brought the cold crystals to her lips.
The platform group
I was alone on a subway platform late at night. A trumpet player was playing a tune there.
After a while, a man carrying a guitar case appeared. He listened to the trumpeter for a bit, then, without speaking, took out his guitar and joined him.
Before too long, the duo had drawn in a drummer and a man with a long coat and no shirt who danced beautifully to the music. None of them said a word.
A train came and went on the tracks above us, and an older woman came down the stairs.
“I’ll just take the next one,” she told no one in particular. And then, to the band: “Do you know ‘These Foolish Things’?”
It was my birthday, and a significant event at that.
With celebratory calls filling my head and heart with the happiness of best wishes, I forgot to sign up for my life drawing workshop the next day. Attendance was limited to the first 13 people who responded to a 5 p.m. email, and the class was full by the time I remembered to respond.
Later in the evening, I called a neighbor who is also a regular at the workshop to tell her that I would not be joining her the next day.
She had also missed the email after mistakenly setting her snooze alarm at 5:30 p.m. I told him my excuse: that I had been distracted because it was my birthday. She suggested we go out to dinner to celebrate.
We went to an Italian restaurant in our Upper West Side neighborhood. My neighbor mentioned to our server that it was my birthday.
He asked if we wanted dessert. We refused and asked for the check.
He comes back with a surprise: a chocolate mousse with a lit candle. He apologized for not singing “Happy Birthday”, saying he had a “not so great” singing voice.
That was fine with me, because I hated the attention anyway.
A woman at the next table, hearing the waiter, suggested that her companion, an opera singer, could do the honors.
And so she did, performing a beautiful soprano rendition of “Happy Birthday” for me, the rest of the restaurant, and eventually, everyone walking around outside.
We all gave him a standing ovation.
Things weren’t going so well in my acting career, and I was desperate — so desperate that I went to an audition where I had to dress up as Captain America and sing the national anthem.
The job, which paid $400, wasn’t at a sporting event or anything as cool as that, but for the grand opening of a used car dealership in the Bronx.
At the audition, I put on the costume and sang the first verse of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” I guess I looked up the part and sang pretty well because I was offered the gig.
After saying my thanks, I rushed over and took the outfit off like it was on fire. When I got to the elevator, there was a tall, nervous young man waiting for me.
We greeted each other politely.
“Captain America?” he asked after a while.
“Yeah,” I answered weakly, head down and feeling like I’d hit rock bottom.
He smiled and held out his hand enthusiastically.
Illustrations by Agnes Lee