Tiny Love Stories: ‘We Stayed Until No One Else Was Left’

Tiny Love Stories: ‘We Stayed Until No One Else Was Left’


Before the city pool in Johnson City, Tenn., got drained at summer’s end, dogs could take a swim for five bucks. Sporting his green life jacket, Barney leapt in as if he weren’t tired, deaf, toothless. We stayed until no one else was left. It’s a small thing in life, a dog, but small is relative. I packed biscuits for our last trip to the vet. I sat on the floor in the lobby, feeding Barney biscuits one by one, and for a moment it seemed possible that we might never run out. — Shuly Xóchitl Cawood

The scene is tranquil. My face grazes Mama’s arm as she lights five candles. No ordinary cake would do. She spent hours making this richly layered Eszterházy torte with pretty puffs of whipped cream. In Canada, her new home, we celebrated my birth and life. We celebrated me — the daughter she had not dared to imagine at 17, when she was alone, desperate to survive, hiding in Budapest’s bombed buildings and basements, terrified of being discovered by the Nazis. For years I’d challenged Mama for being overprotective. Later I understood. I represented the living, breathing embodiment of survival. — Janet Horvath

When I moved in with Sheila in 1979, she asked, “So do you want to do grocery shopping or laundry?” Without a beat, I said, “Grocery shopping.” More than 40 years of marriage later, I still do the grocery shopping and Sheila does the laundry. When our boys were toddlers, I started taking them shopping with me so that they would be good shoppers and know that life’s chores are a shared responsibility — and an act of care. — Zachary Gilstein

I woke up to images of mass cremations in your country. I remembered it was your birthday and texted you my wishes and worries. You said you were OK, remarking, “What a paradox it is to be connected despite 8,000 miles of distance.” We negotiate the separation by chattering through phone static, like ghosts through a wall. It’s hard to imagine you sheltering in your Mumbai apartment. Opening my phone’s map for help, I see us: Two blue dots on one blue planet, gradients of ocean and sky between us. We’re both still here, and I am grateful. — Anaïs La Rocca


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