Tiny Love Stories: ‘Feeling Awkward Flirting With a Younger Woman’


Over dinner, my children finally talk about the car accident that paralyzed me in my teens. My 10-year-old queries; I explain someone died. “Where were they sitting?” “Next to me.” He melts into a puddle. “I’m glad you weren’t … hurt that bad,” my 5-year-old adds. He can’t bear to say dead. I don’t want him to say it either. He kisses my shoulder, kneels, then kisses my wheelchair. “I’m glad for your wheelchair, too.” Understanding the horror of the alternative. I stay composed, not wanting them to know the pain I’ve had. Their pure, boundless compassion strengthens me. — Ryan Rae Harbuck

By accident while on vacation in Sicily, I walked into a conference on water conservation, a topic related to my master’s thesis decades ago. She — a mechanical engineer who also happened upon the conference — approached. Feeling awkward flirting with a younger woman, I walked away. The mistake stung. Found her at the swimming place. Nights spent on her boat, days with my family. Over two years, we’ve swum together in many different seas. Each time threatens finality. She invited me over again. I told her I am playing a long game, but time is not on my side. — Charles Link

He asked me if Andrea was my real name. “I thought it was Ling Ling,” he said. He laughed. Because it was “just a joke.” I laughed. Because cool girls don’t get upset over “jokes.” He told his friends that I had a thick Chinese accent. He laughed. Because he knows that I’m from Indonesia. I laughed. Because his European accent was thicker than any trace of mine. I mimicked chickens squawking and pans clattering. He laughed. Because that’s what he thought East Asian languages sound like. I laughed. Because I didn’t want him to know that I’m Chinese too. — Andrea Lius

“I think she waited for us,” my brother stammered as we gathered around our sister Mariana, clinging desperately to life after a long cancer battle. I grasped her hand, sharing a silent exchange with my brothers, each of us hoping the other would say something profound to memorialize our sibling quartet’s deep bond. “We love you,” I finally offered. Then I spoke the words we’d all been avoiding: “It’s time to let go, Mariana. Trust us to dedicate our lives to keeping your memory alive.” Moments later, Mariana squeezed my hand as she closed her eyes for the last time. — Jeanice Gantus


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