The month of May has always been close to my heart. My mom’s maiden name is May. My eldest brother was born in May. And, you know, flowers are nice.
Three weeks ago I went into one of those fast-food breakfast chains, bought a bagel with cream cheese and a medium hazelnut coffee, and then rushed back onto the street to catch a subway and a train out of the city. As usual, I was completely lost in my head. More than likely a little hungover. Slightly worried about missing my train. And drifting back and forth between allowing the universe to guide me wherever it sees fit and completely freaking out in an effort to figure out what to do with my life.
Anyway, I wandered onto the sidewalk, paper bag and styrofoam cup in hand. I waited at the curb for the red hand to turn to a white stick figure, at which time I would follow my fellow Queens pedestrians across the blacktop. As I stood there distracted, I heard a man yelling out behind me. It was obvious, for some reason, that the yelling was meant to get my attention. “MISS! HELLO, HELLO! MISS!” He was so frantic and excited, as though I’d just missed out on a once in a lifetime opportunity, or you know, dropped an earring or something. So I turned to see a man waving and smiling at me as he leaned out of a convenience store window.
At the time I just thought, “Hmm. Men are so strange.” Which is probably a thought I have a good two to three times a day. I didn’t particularly recognize the man, so I just assumed he was a bored stranger in the middle of a 14-hour shift who was cat-calling to pass the time.
About a week later, train out of the city successfully caught, and then train back into the city also caught–I walked out of my apartment building on a mission to buy toilet paper at the 99 Cent Store next to the Strip Club. To get there, I had to pass the stoop next to my apartment building on which a middle-aged man sits each night. We small talk, chit-chat–you know, like real neighbors. He asks me when I’m doing laundry next. I ask him what kind of beer is in his brown bag. Put simply: we bond.
That particular night, though, I really didn’t have time to shoot the proverbial shit. The 99 Cent Store was about to close, the Strip Club was about to open, and yeah. Toilet paper was at a premium. So when I gave a distracted “Hello,” and continued walking, I was not in the mood to deal with his, “HELLO! MISS, MISS! HELLO!” But he was just so excited, so frantic, that I stopped.
And it was then that I learned my neighbor with the nightly stoop-sitting ways is the very same man who works at the convenience store next to the fast-food breakfast joint. He told me that his co-workers saw the whole ordeal. Heard him announce, “I know that girl!”, only to have that girl turn away and cross the street, her eyes showing no signs of recognition.
I apologized profusely. Our non-English-speaking super also leaned on the stoop, his head cocked, his lips curled into a perplexed smile. My neighbor shrugged off my apologies and said, “Next time you’ll know. You can have a soda on me.”
Five minutes later, toilet paper in hand, I walked by my neighbor and my super again. We all smiled in recognition at each other, but I already knew that I would likely never take my neighbor up on his free soda offer. I headed towards my own stoop, anticipating entering my bathroom where I’d replace the old roll with the new roll. My super waved. I waved back. My neighbor held up his brown paper bag, and in a one-sided toast, exclaimed, “Goodbye, Miss! Goodbye!”