I was chatting on the phone with a friend while walking through SoHo one weekend last fall. We were about to meet for breakfast, and I was warning her that I had just rolled out of bed.
During the pandemic, I had gotten in the habit of waking up first thing in the morning to walk my dog without showering or changing my clothes.
“I haven’t even brushed my teeth,” I told my friend.
Just as I said it, a woman walked past me.
“Don’t worry,” she yelled, “Neither have I!”
We are high-fived and went our separate ways.
— Allison Abrams
I was working at a coffee shop in Midtown near Grand Central Terminal in early March 2020. Toward the end of the morning rush one day, I turned around from the counter to take care of some basic tasks that had been neglected in the chaos.
When I turned back, I saw it: a single N95 mask, wrapped in plastic, on top of the pastry case.
I asked a man who was waiting for the cappuccino he had ordered whether it belonged to him.
He shook his head. So did the other people in the line.
Whoever had left it was gone or didn’t want to be identified — a stranger who, in the middle of panic and confusion, saw me and chose to help.
— Grace Brunson
On the Platform
It was September, and I was in New York for the first time since the pandemic began.
I waited on the subway platform, masked and nervous. The local arrived, and I got on. One stop, two, still nervous.
When the train got to the third stop, a well-dressed man who had been sitting to my right got off and headed across the platform for the express.
I noticed that he had left behind a bag that looked like it might have his lunch inside.
I grabbed it.
“Hey!” I shouted.
The man who had left the bag didn’t turn around, but a large man in coveralls who was standing on the platform did. He saw the bag and motioned for me to give it to him.
I handed it over as the doors began to close on me. The man in coveralls ran toward the express.
“Blue suit!” he yelled.
My train pulled away, and I watched him hand the man his lunch bag as the express doors closed.
— Michael Sardo
Back at the Show
Olivia and I met at college in New York. After leaving in 2019, we both moved back two years later and promptly got tickets to see Straight to Hell, a Clash cover band that is one of our favorites, play their annual Joe Strummer birthday tribute show at the Knitting Factory.
As usual, the show was toward the end of the summer, when the weather in New York starts to shift from sweltering to mild.
The band and the vibes were the same as always: loud, spirited and fun. But there were some differences, like vaccination checks. There was also less moshing than usual.
The people in the crowd were also the same. Because Olivia and I had been coming for years, I recognized some of the faces: regulars and ardent Clash fans. I had never spoken with any of them. I wondered if they recognized me too.
The band’s set was diverse, deep-cut favorites peppered in with energetic singalongs and crowd pleasers.
“It’s great to have live music again,” the lead singer said at one point.
There were cheers, and then they broke into the next song.
— Jennifer Suzukawa-Tseng
Strangers No More
I stepped into a large, empty elevator in Midtown on my way to a doctor’s appointment.
As the doors were closing, one woman, and then another, rushed toward the elevator. I held the doors, and the three of us, masked and standing six feet apart, nodded to one another.
There was a mirror in the elevator. I turned and got a look at my reflection.
“Oh, God,” I blurted out. “My hair is so awful!” (I had not colored it in 19 months and had cut it only once in that time.)
The woman to my left spoke softly.
“I’m so unhappy,” she said.
The woman to my right chimed in.
“I need to see a psychiatrist,” she said.
We all began to laugh. And when the doors opened at my floor, the three of us, intimate strangers now, said, “Have a nice day!” almost in unison.
— Kathy Talalay