Tiny Love Stories: ‘Surrounded by Family and Fireworks, I Finally Lit the Fuse’

I left the book on the couch. Mom sparked a conversation. “I see it’s about a gay man. Do you think you might be?” “Doesn’t everyone wonder at some point?” “Perhaps. Uncle Mike is gay; you know we love him.” The book ignited my innermost thoughts but I wasn’t ready. I quietly stored her words like dry fuses. Three years later, on July 4, Uncle Mike’s birthday, with my brother alongside, I declared my independence. “I always knew,” Mom said. “Love you,” Dad replied. Surrounded by family and fireworks, I finally lit the fuse that illuminated my true colors. — Joshua J. Feyen

Lilacs were blooming the first time we went to his country house a decade ago. He trimmed some and put them in a bottle, their scent deep and sweet and stirring. I took a picture of those purple petals on his porch, our sunglasses carelessly kissing on the table. For seven years after we ended, still in love with him, I studied that picture, telling myself, “flowers grow back; lilacs are perennial; we will bloom again.” And we have. Last week he left fresh lilacs on my night table, and we fell asleep tangled together in the sweet deep air. — Melissa Castelli

After delivering a stillborn and suffering severe blood loss, I was given a blood transfusion and placed in a private bedroom to rest. My husband left to attend to our 2-year-old son. Anemic and filthy, I was alone with my heartbreak until a nurse came in. She delicately pressed a warm cloth on my skin, singing softly while cleaning my body from neck to toe. She held my hand, joining me in my grief. Memories of the worst pain of my life are always associated with the love this stranger gave me that night. Her name was Dawn. — Valeria Collins

Recently, at an Italian restaurant, I came across the word “bombetta,” a bite-size treat full of pork and cheese. Strangely, I had heard this fairly obscure word “bombetta” used all the time among my very Bengali family who didn’t speak any Italian and lived in Kolkata. My maa, baba and grandpa used the word in reference to anything short in height, human or otherwise. (My Italian friends tell me the suffix “ -etta” is, indeed, a diminutive.) The problem is, my older family members have passed away! Funny how a summer lunch can make you pine for and curious about your family. — Ronita Bhattacharya

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