No More We. Just I.
He asked me to marry him on our first date. Over the next 25 years: We (mostly I) raised four daughters while moving between two continents, three countries and seven states. We (mostly he) gained career success, rising through the corporate ranks. We (mostly I) mourned then transitioned to life with a handicapped child. And then we (both) fell apart, just when we should have been enjoying the fruits of our labor. He left me on April Fools’ Day last year, six days after we opened our (now my) dream restaurant. There is no more we. Just I. — Jennifer Brulé
Anu Meets Chiquita
Every morning, on the short walk to my neighborhood cafe, I would try to think of something clever to say to the cute cashier who worked there. It was the hardest thing I had ever tried to do: flirt before coffee. Usually I mumbled something unintelligible about working late or my car getting towed. One morning, I noticed her name tag and said, “Hi, Anu,” mispronouncing her name. Luckily, there was a banana sticker on my shirt. “I’m Chiquita,” I said. Twenty-eight years later, I’m still Chiquita. Turns out I didn’t have to say something clever. I just had to say something. — Rob Thoms
A Merciful Stranger
I changed my last name to “Faith” to reject the mark of my mother’s mistakes. At a difficult time, a friend asked me what I needed, and I said, “Mercy.” Five days later, I found myself at dinner with a stranger while traveling. When he learned about my name change, he said, “I gave myself a new last name, too, after hearing my grandmother pray for traveling mercies.” That connection proved uncommon in a way I never could have imagined. His last name was Mercy. — Karen Faith
The salty taste of arroz con gandules, carne vieja and a slice of cold aguacate. The daytime soap opera plays in the background as I wait for mami to leave work and get me. My grandma sings hymns softly while my grandpa looks out the window. A chorus of bird songs accompany Grandma’s melody. A toddler, I sit on the chilly tile floor, preferring this to the sofa with the plastic. Grandpa was always so quiet; Grandma was loud and commanding. They were perfectly in harmony as they rocked in their chairs, and I daydreamed and loved them. — Tashay Gonzalez
“Tell Me, Honey”
I have worshiped my older brother my entire life. We are in our 50s now. Last summer he fell ill, gripped by mania, his extraordinary mind betraying him, fueling a paranoia that his wife and I were working against him. I wept constantly, wracked with worry. I was desperate to talk about it — once a day, or 27 times — for months. Before his difficult recovery, whenever I would begin a sentence, “My brother …” my husband of two decades would put down his phone, coffee, newspaper or briefcase and look into my eyes and say, “Tell me, honey.” — Sarah Brazaitis
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