They asked me if I were lost, but I was only running. When I told him I’d just moved here, he shrugged his shoulders, welcomed me to the neighborhood, and told me where to find food if I wanted it.
After stepping inside the the bakery he suggested, I asked the time, and the worker shook her head. Unprepared and out of breath, I stumbled through questions about the pastries in the case.
She pointed to the big, fried sphere on the top shelf.
Embarrassed about how much I’d forgotten, I thanked her and excused myself, backing out of the store. I told her I’d return later.
I had my girl with me. She, being cold and ready for that snack I promised her, began to cry. A man who was working on a construction project nearby told me with his hands that I could avoid her tears by pulling down the visor. Though indignant, I listened.
He was right. She stopped.
In a few minutes, we reached another bakery, one closer to the laundromat where our clothes were drying. The workers there know my daughter by name. One of them offered to help us after I’d already ordered and paid for a cup of coffee for myself and a coconut macaroon for the child. When I told Roxana we’d been helped, she looked disappointed and reached over the counter to squeeze my girl’s hand.
The number of customers steadily grew as we drew closer to lunch time. We sat next to a woman and her two grandsons. We live on the same street but hadn’t met yet.
Every week, I meet someone else from the block at the supermarket, playground, or on the sidewalk coming home from the train. Sometimes we speak their language; other times, we try use mine. If neither works well enough, we smile in the moments that pass without words. We let the shuffling, short and quick steps of our children running ahead entertain us, and we point a lot.
Some grew up here or moved to join family. I met a man who came on a honeymoon 15 years ago and never left. He misses the mountains of his country, but he wouldn’t leave Queens given the choice to return home.
Apologetic silence follows whenever I tell people where I live. Those who know where in the world I am don’t know what to say except to ask how I found this place. Within the city, I don’t give my address to people. I admit it to everyone but my neighbors who have no complaints.
I’m waiting to feel like I don’t belong. Despite looking unfortunate to most of the people I meet outside my zip code and lost to many living in it, I’m comfortable — maybe even close to settled.