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Tiny Love Stories: ‘The Empty City Was Our Playground’

Our schedules were opposite: office and restaurant. But then the world shut down, and the dining rooms were closed. When Aiesha would normally be waiting tables, we were riding our bikes through Little Rock’s empty downtown. Logging off from my remote work felt like hearing a school bell ring. The empty city was our playground. I remember riding our bikes along the Arkansas River in the dark with a huge smile on my face. It was the best kind of smile, unseen and electric. Somehow, I knew happiness within a tragedy. I found my best friend. — Kim Mai Draheim

“What are you doing?” My 4-year-old bursts into the bedroom while my husband and I are in bed. Scooby-Doo was supposed to babysit while we made up a shortfall in physical intimacy. “Making love,” I say. She wants to know what she’s seeing. “Why did you take your clothes off?” she asks. “It’s easier that way,” I say. “Why did you throw them on the floor?” In flagrante delicto though we are, I’m pleased my lectures about tidiness have sunk in. “We were in a hurry,” I say. She stops, reflects, bolts. Scooby-Doo beckons. Time to solve the next mystery. — Cindy Littlefair


This past December, I had to leave behind the world we built in the new city that I loved with the new job that I had worked so hard to get. It still hurts. But, looking back now, I mostly remember that two-day road trip: Sitting in the back seat with my dog on my lap, my two best friends in the front seat, eating French fries and singing along to my “Gay Divorce” playlist, I realized that I still had love around me. My friends were driving me back home, where I could heal. I had never felt more loved. — Michael Griffin

Dog, French fries, friends and the “Gay Divorce” playlist.

“Do not bring or show baby to mother.” The doctor left those instructions for the nurses who cared for my birth mother. Twenty-one years later, I showed myself to my birth mother. We shared years of important bonding. I breathed in her over-the-top mothering. Her fierce love stayed with me, teaching me how to care for my own children. They now complain about my over-the-top mothering. It means a lot to be seen by your mother. I am grateful for our years together.— Karen Phillips

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