Lovely Day

Who: Fred
Age: 40
City: New York, NY
Profession: Taxi Driver

He owns an eco-friendly kind of taxi; they’re becoming popular these days. The A/C is on but not blasting at us, just enough to cool the beads of sweat on my forehead, nose, chin. A moment later, I notice beads slipping down my forearms as well. I let them. The music hits me like a ton of bricks. Bill Wither’s “Lovely Day”. I can’t help myself, “I love this song,” I explode at him. “Oh, yes, it’s a favorite for many,” he says from over his shoulder.

When I wake up in the morning, love… 

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A Quick Lesson on Happiness

Who: Ingris Melendez
Age: 32
City: New York, NY
Profession: Paralegal

Ingris and I are new neighbors. I met her a couple of hours ago but we bump into each other again; this time, she is with groceries bags. I get to meet happy-go-lucky, Evan, her 8 year old son, who is utterly adorable, and just naturally happy. Ingris seems rather content herself, even though she lives in a garden studio along side me. Not just lives here, she actually grew up in this building, and in that same studio. This concept blows my mind every time I meet people actually born and raised in New York, but, anyway. “Yeah, there were four of us in Evan’s room,” she chuckles to herself. “Back then, it was doable.”

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Frazzle that Dazzles

Who: Jim Grunstein
Age: 60
City: New York, NY
Profession: Old Money Guy

“Lots and lots and lots and lots of money,” the doctor reveals to me. But that’s later. Jim comes into the space loud. He’s a small guy, gray frazzled hair, and vocal chords that can fill an arena. And it’s one of those annoying voices. I try to temper him by making my welcome sincere yet short. More than anything he looks lost. He stumbles into the space like he hasn’t been here since “the changes,” and I say this in quotes because I don’t think the clinic’s been redecorated since the doctor moved in 30 years ago. Jim’s appointment is at 2pm but he’s shown up a couple of hours early to wait for a chat with the doctor.

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City: New York, NY
Where: New York Presbyterian Hospital

Wednesday night in the Emergency Room is bustling. It’s pouring rain outside. I think that explains some of the craziness in the waiting room. All sorts of ailments surround me, some visible, some not. For a few minutes, I sit next to Sandra De La Rosa, who barely speaks English. One of the male nurses keeps repeating to her in Spanish, “Are you sure who have no ID?” She nods. “Nothin’? You got nothin’?” She nods again. He leaves. Sandra starts to silently cry. When I finally notice, without thinking twice about it, I reach over and rub her back a little. I don’t know her at all. She looks at me and says with such heart-felt earnestness, “Gracias.” She makes me want to cry.

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The Secret Life of Mario

Who: Mario
Age: 40
City: New York, NY
Profession: Cleaner / Maintenance

Mario didn’t show up for work today. Tuesday’s and Friday’s are his days, and we usually spent four or five hours together. Mario is quiet, an excellent worker and from Peru. He calls me, “Sinorita,” and my response to him every time is, “Mi nombre es Liza, no sinorita, por favor!” I tease him and his reaction is always one of an embarrassed schoolboy. He’s about 10 years older than me too. It was the first time since I started at this job that he didn’t show. The doctor asked that I call him to find out when he would be coming in, if at all. The doctor didn’t look at all upset, which perplexed me. And he has one of those personalities that, I can bet my life, he would be upset at this moment. So, why not?

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C for Courage

Who: Irene
Age: 38
City: New York, NY
Profession: Potential Mother

It was just plain bad luck. “We think it had to do with a blood transfusion she had done 15 years ago back in Russia.” Levya is gorgeous to look at, slim, late 50s, and mother to Irene. She has a thick accent even though she’s been in this country for over 15 years. She’s got the body, energy and vibrancy of someone half her age – and it’s natural. Her style is that of Grace Kelly. “How did you detect it?” I ask. Levya still looks as concerned as the day she found out, “Irene was in the process of applying for artificial insemination when a doctor detected Hepatitis C in her blood.” A list of “what ifs” rolls through my head. She knew she was tired all the time but no one considered it to be a deadly medical condition. Irene was this close to dying, if it weren’t for that doctor, period.

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Home Sweet Home

Who: Haige
Age: 50
City: New York, NY
Profession: Super

Haige passes me an umbrella. I slip him a $20. He takes it, unable to look me in the eye. I have a feeling he’s done this before. A lot. I can’t pick his accent – Russian or Romanian? – it doesn’t matter cause regardless, he’s going to be my new super. I thought it only fair to give a little, “Hello Neighbor” gift. Haige has been working for Ranger Management for twenty years. He’s a stocky, short man. His uniformed look is paint-stained pants and shirts. He’s missing some side teeth but you don’t notice unless you manage to catch his hit-and-run smile. In the last twenty years, he’s moved three times in this building, “But this time my apartment overlooks the Hudson River,” he tells me. It’s only taken twenty years. Just a couple of hours before, while processing the money order for the apartment with my bank, the Hispanic teller looks at the payee information and can’t hide her smile. “What?” I ask, as if anticipating a funny joke. “Nah, it’s just that my mother lives in that building.” “What!” I exclaim. “Yeah! She does. She’s been there for twenty years, she loves it.” I bet she’s facing the river too.

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