Tiny Love Stories: ‘We Couldn’t Stop Ourselves’

At 19, I left my first adult relationship. I lived alone, working for minimum wage at a coffeehouse in Rochester, N.Y. Consumed by anxiety and loss, I stopped eating. Within the month of September, I lost 20 pounds. One afternoon, my co-worker slipped me a piece of paper with an illustrated, step-by-step recipe for oatmeal: “Stretch on the floor and breathe while cooking. Scrape into a ceramic bowl you like touching. Breathe into it and eat slowly.” I don’t like oatmeal, but years later the recipe remains taped to my dresser mirror. — Madeline Lathrop

The alarm would buzz — the neon of my Timex clock displaying 4:30 a.m., just as it did every morning. A stock trader in Chicago, I would drag myself to the kitchen and scoop grounds into my Mr. Coffee, just as I did every morning. I would shower, put on makeup, dress in a preselected work outfit, just as I did every morning. I would whisper, “Bye David,” to my sleeping husband, who died suddenly 10 years ago. With eyes still completely shut, he would reply, “You look beautiful,” just as he did every morning. — Allison Stiefel

Matt and I knew that we were planting a flower scheduled for scything. Still, we couldn’t stop ourselves. We museum hopped, savored afternoon scones, explored England’s Suffolk Coast by train. In the sticky summer heat, we bared all, hoping we could evade the blade of my inevitable departure. Love often blooms that way: blind to opportunity, reckless with its velocity and need for nourishment. Now, an ocean apart, as I plan life in Cambridge, Mass., and he remains in Cambridge, England, we know desiccation is unavoidable. Yet, we also know that some plants can survive drought to bloom again. — Jonathan Chan

After contracting coronavirus, my husband and I isolated ourselves from our 9-year-old. That first night, Ryan cried, realizing that I couldn’t read to him. In the same apartment, yet so far away, I ached, knowing I couldn’t be there with him when he needed me most. But the next day, Ryan bravely began cleaning, preparing breakfast and caring for himself. That second night, I received a video-chat invite. There he was, showered and smiling. “Read to me, Mama,” he said. I read Harry Potter, exhausted but grateful to uphold our precious bedtime ritual. — Sravani Saha

Six days after my wedding, my mother received a diagnosis of Stage 4 lung cancer. I paused my new marriage to care for her. When we found an open clinical trial, my mother and I moved from Illinois to a shoe-box studio in Manhattan. I was 13 weeks pregnant. After her injections, we would coo over my ultrasound pictures, sample vegan ice cream and make it home for “American Idol.” Most nights we giggled ourselves to sleep in our shared bed. We became magicians, fitting 30 years of life we wouldn’t get to share into one spring, summer and fall. — Nikki Campo

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