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‘Too Beautiful to Be in Ruins’

Now It’s All Fresh Fish

We are grandparents. The age when most couples stay put. “We need something new,” I said as our Trader Joe’s fish defrosted in our suburban Maryland kitchen. “Why not sell the house? We’re retired and the kids are settled. And you know it’s been my dream to live abroad while we still can.” My dream, not his. He looked at me, his face inscrutable. Three years, two funerals and two weddings later, we still eat fish for dinner. But it’s caught in Clew Bay, near our home in the shadow of Croagh Patrick. We’re old, we’re new, we’re together, in Ireland. — Roberta Beary (originally published on Jan. 8, 2019)

Lobster traps in Clew Bay, Ireland.

Boy Meets Girl. Girl and Girl Remain Madly in Love.

Boy meets girl. They date incollege. Boy drops bombshell by taking job offer in Japan. Did she want to join? Girl thinks it over and decides to take a chance. They move to Japan, then the Philippines, then back to the United States. Boy becomes girl. Girl and girl remain madly in love years later. — Ash Kline (originally published on Jan. 15, 2019)

At left, eating Japanese food near Mt. Fuji.
A year and a half later, us at a holiday party in Manhattan.

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Most Important Photo Ever

Neither of us wanted to be at our high school reunion. I was worried I would have to retell the story of my high school sweetheart’s death to pancreatic cancer over and over. He was recently separated after years of being in an unhappy marriage. We didn’t know each other in high school, but 30 years later there we were, two lonely souls circling each other in a crowded room for hours until he took a photograph of me. We talked for two minutes, and it turned into a second lifetime. “The most important photo I’ve ever taken,” he said. — Stacey Paterson-Korynkiewicz (originally published on Jan. 15, 2019)

The photo that started everything.

A Long To-Do List

The night you were discharged from the clinic where we had been both patient and prisoner, you tried to throw yourself into blinding headlights. Days later, I visited you in a new white room. You showed me a list of things you wanted to do. It was long, and I was relieved. You had written, “Kiss Greta,” and I looked at you, surprised. That’s when you checked off the first thing on that list, and I thought of time, how ours had intersected to produce an unpredictable bond and a happiness that we had missed for so long. — Greta Kerr (originally published on March 26, 2019)

A photo I took around that time in my life.

As Our World Shrinks, Hers Expands

Our three-month-old decided that she no longer wants to sleep. Not forever, we hope. But for now. As new parents, we are learning, like everyone during this pandemic, to take it one day at a time. While our worlds condense into two-hour sleep stretches and 2,000 square feet of self-isolation, our daughter’s world continues to expand. We find solace in her small wonders: her fingers tracing the lines of our faces, her delight in the guitar, our silly dancing, the range of her newfound voice. Today, there is hope in her tiny universe. We hold it fiercely. — Charity Yoro (originally published on April 7, 2020)

Family picture.

‘That Big Gorgeous Life’

After the breakup, we spent every Thanksgiving, birthday and Christmas together. Close enough to touch, legs inches apart. We were still dying of AIDS in the ’90s, but I always thought no, not Michael. When he died I wondered who would love Black gay me like that ever again. It’s taken me 20 years to see what he saw in me. That big gorgeous life was too beautiful to be in ruins. Damn it, Michael. And yet I can still hear you saying, “Get off the cross, Mary. Somebody else needs the wood.” Just as close as two legs almost touching. — Wesley Rowell (originally published on Oct. 17, 2018)

Selfie taken on the corner of 22nd Street and Eighth Avenue in New York City.

Any Color, Any Day

“You can have three colors if you want,” I said to my 3-year-old daughter as patrons and aestheticians looked on, horrified. Was I truly allowing my toddler to get a multicolored pedicure? What kind of a self-absorbed monster was I raising? Just two years ago, my child was fighting for her life, spending months in the hospital, undergoing multiple procedures. Her feet and hands swallowed up by giant IVs, she nursed unimaginable pain for a tiny person. Today she is thriving. She can paint her nails any color, any day, for the rest of her life. — Gabriela Revilla Lugo (originally published on July 23, 2019)

My daughter’s multicolored toes.Credit…

This Brave New World

Three weeks before the world shut down, a date on a Central Park bench lasts 16 hours. She, an Afro-Caribbean Ph.D. candidate writing a dissertation on interracial love in colonial Africa. I, a white, high school English teacher writing a novel about interracial love in the American south. Suddenly, people are dying and we are driving to Atlanta. Time spent with my family and in my hometown with its Confederate monument. Our love defies power and typical timelines. A return to Brooklyn’s masked marches. Our wedding: May 2021. Our brave new world. We will raise children in it. — Britt Buttrill (originally published on July 28, 2020)

The two of us in Dacula, Ga.

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