We were in New York City (“New York City?!”). My city.
My cousin had gotten married. At the Bronx Zoo! Incredible event, complete with peacocks strutting around (the birds not the wannabe alphas). It was a wonderful reunion of sorts for us and congratulations were given all around.
But it’s the cab ride back to the hotel I remember most.
My mom, my wife and I were in the back. My dad jumped into the front passenger seat.
We were all a bit loopy from the asphalt radiating at least 100 degrees back at all day and night, and the free flowing of spirits, spirit and revelry.
I’d never really seen my mom like this, jovial and a bit silly, cracking jokes and speaking Chinese (we are Korean) randomly. She had us rolling. I think my mom felt particularly hilarious that night and would laugh at her own jokes harder than we did (that’s where I get that from!). My dad had befriended the driver and was having a deeply philosophical conversation with the man. That’s my dad.
It was midnight or so, late, but it’s never late in Manhattan, and the roads back into the city were predictably packed. After one particularly funny joke, the back seat erupted in gleeful laughter, and it was then, as I was sitting by the window, I looked out.
Another cab was next to us, and our windows were lined up. I saw a girl in the rear window next to mine, laughing at our good time. It wasn’t that she was laughing at us, no, she was sharing in our joy. This complete stranger was laughing with us.
When I saw her, I was a bit embarrassed, but I kept laughing and nodded my head. She returned the nod. It was then I noticed that she was, or had been, crying. She joined our chorus of laughter through tears which I didn’t sense had come from joy. Like she had been openly weeping before she saw this timely rollicking group pull up next to her.
Just as instantly, our driver took off, veering left as her cab went right. And I couldn’t help but feel a bit moved by it all. More than I should have been. Surely there was a story there, but I would never hear it. I just hoped we had instilled something, something like hope, in her that night. That restored, or started to heal, whatever may have been lost to her.
That’s what I remember about New York City. A place so big that you can impact a person you never knew, and never will. We drove off that night, and I felt so thankful, looking around at my suddenly Mandarin-fluent mom, my cabbie-befriending philosopher father, and my tears-of-joy-giggling wife. And I realized that the person forever affected by the encounter was the stranger, alright.
It was me.