There are over 8.4 million people living in New York City and everyone of them has a story. The one that counts is the one that touches us the most in the moment. Usually it’s our own story. New Yorkers like most big city residents are in a hurry and absorbed in their own world. They navigate the crowded streets with one hand ready to push, the other clutching their cell phone. The other day I arrive off an air-conditioned train at Grand Central at rush hour and brace myself for the whoosh of heat. I only had to walk two blocks so I didn’t mind the sticky air. Tourists in short shorts gawk and take selfies. A lone customer stands in refrigerated cool, deciding. Deciding on what, I can only imagine. What flavor designer cupcake (s) would have less calories. Whether to buy extras for a sick friend, lover, mother? Who knows? She’s not a skinny customer but I don’t think she has self-esteem issues or is bulimic. Will she ship two dozen Boston cream Pie cupcakes to cousin getting a divorce in Atlanta or buy three dozen for her daughter’s 5th birthday party? We can speculate but we can never really know anything about anyone.
Steps away a sign of a homeless sits on the sidewalk unattended. There is no money in the cup. The drawing of the cat gets my attention. It’s well done, as is the hand lettering on the cardboard. It takes skill to space out words neatly. The woman (my assumption) is creative, loves cats and is literate. Did she lose her job, home and her cat? There’s a blue bag to the side and I wonder where she is. A public restroom? Hiding around the corner too embarrassed to show herself? It’s melting hot to sit and beg on the sidewalk all day. I can’t imagine losing everything. Need white socks and/or t-shirt if possible. What size I wonder but I keep walking. The tall, glass office towers spits out workers with jobs. Jobs that allow decisions like what flavor cupcake to buy. I keep moving, the nape of my neck is hot with sweat, my underarms damp. Two blocks is all it took. How does someone stand outside all day begging or selling hot dogs, deliver packages, fix roads, open doors is beyond me. My hot brain short circuits at the thought. I make a mental note not to complain about the heat once I arrive at my destination: a blogger event on storytelling. We tell stories, one at a time in public, drink chilled white wine and I mention nothing about what I saw. We’re all storytellers and there are so many stories. This is only one, my last one in August. And there are 22 days left of summer. I can’t predict how long this heat wave will last, but I know there will be more New York and other stories.