On a warm summer Friday in New York City, I shook the dust off of my camera, and headed to Chinatown. From the car on the Williamsburg Bridge, the city had its typical sweltering glow — the sweaty, magical mess that is summer in New York City. But the last months have been far from typical, which I was reminded of as I adjusted my mask, and stepped out of the car in front of Super Taste, Chinatown.
I’d never met Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou before, and it’d been a while since I’d interacted with a new person at all. I took out my phone to shoot her a text: “I’m wearing a pink shirt and denim shorts.”
Awaiting her reply, I opened Instagram and began searching for Yuh-Line’s page, double checking what she looked like. At that moment, I turned a corner and suddenly saw her face on a re-election poster.
Soon I noticed them all over Chinatown.
When Yuh-Line arrived, her smile and energy instantly alleviated my social-interaction worries. During the hours we spent together, countless Chinatown residents approached Niou to thank her, or say hello, or offer congratulations on her re-election.
She took me to all of her favorite spots, encouraging me to try a bite of every dish we were photographing. At the end of our tour, we sat in folding chairs at a table on the blocked-off street, outside of Tonii’s Rice Noodle, still picking at all of the goodies we’d picked up to eat along the way. I sighed instinctively through a smile between bites, looked up at Niou and said, matter of factly, “This was a great day.”
She laughed, but I meant it.