‘I Was on the M104, and a Woman Was Talking Loudly on Her Phone’


Dear Diary:

I was on the M104, and a woman was talking loudly on her phone. She was explaining to whoever she was talking to about how she had flirted with a guy to make her ex jealous.

At one point, her voice became a mumble, and the man sitting across from her interrupted.

“Excuse me, can you please raise your voice?” he said. “It sort of dropped and we couldn’t hear what happened.”

The other passengers applauded.

— Ivy Mansky

Doughnut Man

Dear Diary:

It was 1950. My grandmother would pick me up after school on Seventh Street near Avenue B and take me for ice cream and a pretzel rod or some other treat.

On this particular day, she said we were going to the Second Avenue Griddle, my favorite place for jelly doughnuts. They were topped with crunchy sugar. You could bite into them anywhere, and real raspberry jam would ooze onto your fingertips.

I could hardly contain my excitement as we walked the three long avenue blocks to Second Avenue. We walked into the store, and the counterman handed me a doughnut in wax paper. I bit into it and immediately had jelly all over my face. I was in doughnut heaven.

The counterman motioned for me to come behind the counter. He pointed to a tray of freshly baked doughnuts and handed me a clean white apron that hung to my ankles. Then he handed me a doughnut in wax paper and showed me how to glide it onto the nozzle of the jelly machine.

With my free hand, I was to push the handle of the machine slowly down so the jelly streamed into the doughnut without shooting out the other side. I became proficient enough to move things along, and soon all the doughnuts were filled.

I washed my hands and handed the apron back when I was finished. My grandmother and I left for home.

“Your Uncle Lenny must love you very much,” she said as we were walking. “If the owner of the store had come in, he would have been in a lot of trouble.”

— Sandy Snyder

Special Occasion

Dear Diary:

I was on the 6 train. Across from me was an older man who was dressed in full corporate uniform: suit, tie, shoes shined to a mirror reflection.

In his hand was a paper gift bag, covered in drugstore glitter and bold colors. He was holding a muted yellow envelope with “Herb” written on it in cursive.

He took the card out of the envelope, looked at it for a moment and smiled.

My stop came. I got off the train and began walking home, wondering as I went: retirement? birthday?

Either way, Herb, I’m glad something made you smile.

— Abigail Blackburn


Dear Diary:

My mother died earlier this year. It was sudden and unexpected. In the weeks that followed, I was taking care of my father in addition to my children. I was so busy that I barely had a chance to cry.

After about a month, I took a day off work to go to the Fotografiska Museum and then to meet my husband for lunch nearby.

After viewing an exhibition of nude photography, I walked directly into one that was a chronicle of the life and death of the artist’s mother.

The weight of the previous month and the unexpected connection to the artist hit me hard. I sat down in the mostly empty museum and sobbed.

I tried to be quiet and inconspicuous there in the dark room, but before long a man approached me and asked if I was OK.

I told him that my mother had died recently and that I just missed her so much.

He sat down next to me, rubbed my back after politely seeking my consent and told me he would sit with me as long as I needed.

I asked his name.

Owen, he said.

He asked mine.

Suzie, I replied.

And my mother’s?


He said he would hold us in his heart and he asked if I needed a hug.

I did. Even in heels, I stood on tiptoes to embrace a total stranger and sob into his shoulder. I thanked him with every fiber of my being.

I skipped the final exhibition and ran to meet my husband. I don’t know why, but I couldn’t bear to see Owen’s face in the light.

— Suzanna Publicker Mettham

Stuffed Suitcases

Dear Diary:

We took a long-awaited vacation to New York City, stuffing our suitcases with all the clothes and toiletries we thought we needed for our stay.

When we arrived at our hotel, the bellhop struggled to lift the bags onto a cart. After a few minutes, he paused.

“Leave something at home next time,” he said.

— Jack Richter

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Illustrations by Agnes Lee

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