I spent the weekend in New York City.
I hadn’t been to New York in quite a while. I was performing at a theater conference and so was traveling alone, without my husband, Peter.
New York intimidates me—as all big cities do. I am not a nervous traveler, generally, but I keep my possessions close at hand and my eyes open—which is why I noticed the young man in the black athletic shirt on the subway.
I was taking the subway for the first time in a long time and, so far, I was doing pretty well. Okay, I did choke when I got to my first turnstile. I pushed the bar too quickly and had to run my card through a second time. Two dollars! Down the drain! But I finally made it on the subway, in the late evening, my bags gathered close like little ducklings.
So, naturally, I noticed when a young man in a black athletic shirt started talking trash to the man across from him. They were having a heated discussion, topping each other by speaking louder and louder. I clutched my suitcase a little tighter. Then I saw the young man reach inside his bag. I watched closely as his hand disappeared into a large satchel and emerge with a cigar box.
If I now asked you to guess what was in the box, no matter how many guesses you were given, I’m betting you would be wrong.
In that box was every color of thread in the rainbow. The young man, without missing a beat in his argument, reached into the box and pulled out a spool of black thread and a needle, threaded it and—right before my eyes—began stitching up a small tear in the sleeve of his athletic jersey.
His satchel was full of sewing paraphernalia, I realized. He was clearly much better outfitted than my mother who, to the best of my knowledge, has never attempted a stitchery repair while on a moving subway.
I got to my Airbnb. When Peter and I travel together, we always rent an Airbnb we can have to ourselves but, as I was alone and New York is expensive, I found a place with one other room and a shared bath. It was neat as a pin and very convenient. The first night there was a sweet young woman named Emily staying there. She was interviewing for a job at a big publishing house. Emily checked out, the room was cleaned, and I had the place to myself until the second evening when the door opened and a large, swarthy young man with more than a five-o’clock shadow appeared. His name was Manu, he said, in a strong accent.
I said hello and went about preparing to go out for the night. I had to perform in a couple hours, so I had hair to curl and other equally important duties to perform. Manu parked his bag in his room and prepared to leave.
But just as he was about to go out the door, he stopped and turned.
In a deep baritone voice, he asked, “Is it safe? Will I be safe in this neighborhood?”
I studied the extremely capable looking Manu. I remembered the young man stitching on the subway. I thought of all the assumptions I make, every day, every time I encounter another person.
I smiled at Manu. “It’s okay, I think you’ll be safe,” I told him.
Manu grinned at me and headed out onto the streets of New York.
Till next time,
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