As a writer with a need for a shot of energy, I often head into Manhattan which is a short train ride away from the sterile suburbs where I live. During a recent trip, however, I wasn’t prepared for what lay ahead.
After getting off the Metro North train, I move along with the others like weary wooden soldiers into one of my favorite New York landmarks: stunning Grand Central station passenger terminal. The domed ceiling with ornate painted constellations and tiny lights always refreshes men despite the throngs of commuters and tourists.
Two morning cups of coffee leave me with a need to stop at the restroom tucked away in a nook under great marble arches. When I finish washing my hands, I spy a small and shiny object on the counter lying in some drops of water. Two other women nearby don’t see it. I guess it’s a coin or a marble which a kid left behind, but on closer inspection I see that it’s a beautiful diamond ring resting on its side. Stunned, I immediately snap it up and look around to make sure no one saw me. Am I on candid camera?
I think of the poor woman who left it there, probably panicked and devastated by her loss. Turning the gem gently between my fingers, I read a tiny engraved message on its underside: Jill, my love, forever John.
I decide to wait twenty minutes outside for a frantic woman to return. When she doesn’t, I wrap up the diamond in tissues and put it in my wallet and head outside, making a mental note to put a message on social media when I get home. I can ask the person to tell me what the inscription to know for sure. Leaving it with Lost and Found is not an option, since my lost credit card was stolen by a vendor last year.
I head out to Lexington Avenue where I’m inspired by people-watching, creative store windows, and beautiful architecture. I smell franks and falafel from push-carts, watch buses spew little plumes of exhaust, and listen to ambulances wail. I’m surrounded by a colorful pedestrian soup: the Pakistani vendor who sells my favorite pashina scarves; the homeless beggar on the street who reminds me to count my blessings; lovely brownstones, the tourists who look up at the skyscrapers in wonder.
Walking along, I still can‘t believe I found a diamond ring in Grand Central and clutch my purse tightly. A burly bearded man wearing a neon red jacket with the words, ‘I Love the Big Apple’ on the back holds a freckled faced woman’s hand and stops me a few blocks out of the terminal.
“Excuse me, can you tell us how far we are from The Waldorf Astoria hotel? We’re celebrating our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary.”
I smile, remembering the day seventeen years ago my husband asked me to marry him. Then I think again of the poor owner of the lost ring.
“Congratulations. You’re very close. Just walk up Park Avenue to Fiftieth Street. It’s a beautiful place. Great choice.”
“Thanks so much.”
“Have a wonderful time, and welcome to New York.”
By the time I reach Central Park, I rest on a bench and enjoy a thick and oily slice of Ray Bari pizza. I take out my notebook and prepare to get in an hour of writing. A street musician wearing a rainbow bowler hat over bleached blonde dreadlocks plays his trumpet. Light fall winds shake the trees as moms jog with strollers and a pair of Hasidic Jews walks by steadily. I know from having worked in the nearby diamond district that they’re carrying fistfuls of gems in tiny silk sacks, ready to sell or trade. I clutch my pocketbook anxiously and again think of the mystery diamond inside.
By the time I filled up half of my notebook, the sun begins to drop in an orange blaze over the jagged skyline. It’s time to go home.
The last express train out of the city creeps along the tunnel heading north. It’s only after we crawled through the black tunnel of Grand Central into the dusky afternoon that I notice a young woman sitting alone in the corner, her head resting on the window crying softly. I sit up and wonder what the odds are that she could be the woman who lost her ring. After a few other people get off over the next few stops, I get up and sit next to her.
“Miss, are you all right?”
“Oh, thanks so much for asking. I’ve had a horrid afternoon. I just got engaged last month, and while I was washing my hands in the bathroom, I left my diamond ring on the sink. Can you believe it? I feel like such an idiot! It’s just that I was a nervous wreck being in the city alone.”
This is unbelievable. What are the odds?
“Oh, that’s just awful. Well, you’ll be really glad to hear what happened to me today. I’m Liz, by the way. By any chance is your name Jill?” My new friend smiled, confused. I was thrilled to have found her and added this city trip to the making of another great New York story.
Elizabeth Papazian was raised in New York City, graduated from Fordham University and has worked in a diverse background including non-profit development, corporate law, real estate and travel. She lives in the Hudson Valley with her family. Her two rescue dogs and swimming keeps her calm and inspired.