Walking home tonight, lugging my new down comforter along by my side, I passed a stoop on which a young man was standing, head bent towards the speaker panel, frame fraught with tension. He was talking angrily – to somebody in the darkness of the doorway, I thought – but as I drew closer I saw that he stood alone.

“So you want me to just leave it here?” he said, and I saw that he was folding a heavy coat into two. I drew abreast of him, not wanting to slow down and betray my eavesdropping. He set the coat down on the railing.

“Why can’t I just come up and give it to you?” he asked, and his voice was blend of frustration and anger, helplessness and confusion.

Walking on, I turned the corner onto Prospect Park, and began the final long block that would take me home. A large SUV was pulled over to my left, and as I approached a long legged young girl darted across the pavement, a flitting shadow through the darkness, leaving the open car door and running up the stoop into a brownstone.

“Bye, dad!” she called over her shoulder.

A man stood by the SUV, his long dread locks hanging down over his shoulders. Somebody called out from the brownstone doorway, her voice indistinct.

“What?” said the man, taking a step forward but stopping shy of the curb.

The woman said something again, but neither I nor the man could make it out.

“I can’t hear you,” he said, not frustrated, but genial, “Come on down and talk to me.”

“Love you dad,” called the girl again as she disappeared through the door. I crossed between the man and a short haired woman who was walking stiffly down the stoop towards him, arms crossed over her chest. Her tension was in sharp opposition to his ease.

I was walking quickly though, and didn’t hear what they said.