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  • "Excuse me!" called a disembodied voice from somewhere over my left shoulder. (Or was it the right?)

    I moved as far as I could, a step, a half step, nowhere at all, and I stopped just short of pressing myself into a man's back with my face in the softness of his shouldered daughter's outerwear. Everything about that felt inappropriate and so I leaned back into the mass pushing and pulling.

    "I don't think we're getting through here!" a girl shouted into my ear and my eyebrow cocked as I looked from downy hem to crowd lining the streets back to the girl. "We might have to go around!"

    She pointed down H Street toward the stage that served as the end and the beginning and the center of it all.

    "You might want to go back up the street and around?"

    She shrugged and kept pushing toward the corner as if the parade would stop, as if the crowds would part, the thousands filling the sidewalk would step aside to let her get to the movies, Dunkin Donuts, Urban Outfitter. She looked like an Urban Outfitter girl.

    The crowd shifted and throbbed. The girl and her friend lost themselves in it, but maybe that was just me as even more people shouted "Excuse me!" and pressed between my place on the curb and the parade in the street.

    "Out of the street!" police officers shouted. "Get. Off. The. Street!"

    People pushed from two both sides, the curb and the street, for a second before giving up and heading back toward the parade and more shouts.

    "Happy new year!" shouted the man who'd stood next to me, the toothless man with a wide grin who had asked me to take a picture with his cardboard-encased disposable camera. "Beautiful hair, girls! Beautiful hair!"

    The girls rode past on the back of a convertible. Flags fluttered. The child on her dad's shoulders screamed.

    "I'm falling!"

    Next to me, a voice muttered, "I can't see anything."

    "I can't either," I replied to nobody but myself as I held up my camera and snapped.

    Small plastic packets flew into the crowd. One landed at my feet and somehow, I made my way to the ground to grab it, throwing it into my bag before the item registered.

    "It's a fortune cookie," I said to the people who looked at me and they looked distinctly annoyed, like they wanted it for themselves. "It's a broken fortune cookie," and it was mine.

    Drums, dragons and lions danced in the sun and I left to meet an ex for a photo shoot, cookie in my bag, camera around my neck. I found a dollar outside a restaurant and tried to return to the couple standing there.

    "Is this yours?" I asked.


    "I found this beside you. Is it yours?"

    "No, you should keep it. It's for good luck!"

    I smiled and thanked them and I gave it to a homeless man on the way to the metro.

    "Bless you, ma'am," he said in surprise. "Bless you."

    Hours later, at home again, I cracked open the cookie to find my fate inside. It was empty, and I wondered, was the fortune mine to tell? Had I told it already? Would I just be unfortunate in lunar New Year?
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