Tiny Love Stories: ‘This City That Some Are Calling Dead Is Very Much Alive’

Four years ago, a pair of sparrows built a nest in our microwave vent. My husband evicted them. They rebuilt. My husband gave up. The squawking squatters now return every May to raise a family. We hear their peeping while eating our oatmeal and watch the couple fly around our yard, looking for food for their brood. In October, we know by the sudden quiet that they and their children have left. We take solace in their ability to rebuild each year, happy to provide them with a love nest in a Connecticut vent. — Beth Levine

After my release from the hospital, Patti stands in the doorway of my quarantined sickroom in Port Royal, S.C. I apologize for this mortifying virus, for causing her such deep grief and for needing to be waited on day and night. “Don’t,” she says, tongue thick with hurt. “I love you.” Her response takes away my already-short breath as I suddenly understand my myopia: 52 years of marriage and I still think love must be earned. Outside my window, live oaks and Spanish moss sway. I look in her pooling eyes. Through this dark devastation, old love blossoms anew. — Steven Lewis

At 11, I was the youngest in the eating disorder program. In her 60s, Shelly was the oldest. Trapped in armchairs that smelled like scrambled eggs, we fiddled with everything: threads, tissues, clothing, beads. When a counselor confiscated my playthings, Shelly intervened: “She’s just a baby.” After 100 days, I was released. Shelly pressed a bracelet into my palm — tiny, opalescent beads strung between two leather cords. Seven years later, my wrist is too big for Shelly’s bracelet. But looking at the beads nestled in the tough leather, I think of the young girl in the veteran’s arms. — Eliza Rudalevige

On a sticky August Sunday, my boyfriend balanced my mattress on his electric skateboard. This is how he transported it two miles west across Manhattan to its new home. I swooned at his ingenuity, jogging behind him with a yellow Gatorade. We wove through traffic on First Avenue and past the busy fruit sellers. Old men in Central Park paused their chess game to applaud. Bikers cheered as we took the mattress down the pedestrian lane. After our hourlong odyssey, we kissed through our masks. This city that some are calling dead is very much alive. — Meghan Gunn

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