Our local bodega is a very nondescript, somewhat dingy place, but it is our place. The owner is always there to talk about the daily news. He knows everything that is happening in the world as it unfolds, sitting in front of his portable television behind the counter. And on sunny days he sits outside in a metal folding chair waiting for customers, smiling and enjoying time spent outside his small, windowless world. He has talked me through some very serious deliberations about what pint of ice cream I should buy and his door is open when all the other doors in our neighborhood are closed.
But for the past week, the place has been sealed shut, the result of what I can only assume was a fire, although I can't find any record of it anywhere. The past few days we have noticed that hand-written notes have been popping up to say, simply, We miss you.
To know the heart of a place is not easy. It is often discovered slowly, after many years. People come to New York for many reasons. And, despite the amount of people here, it can be a lonely, often desperate, city. But it is not a city of strangers.