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Tiny Love Stories: ‘The Loneliness He Made Me Feel’

After their day jobs, my parents worked as night janitors in Los Angeles. They couldn’t afford a babysitter when I was a toddler, so most nights I went to work with them. To entertain me, they told funny stories about the people who occupied the offices by day. And when I grew tired, I slept on my father’s jacket on the floor while they mopped and vacuumed. I wrote a children’s book about that time called “The Paper Kingdom.” When we learned that my story would be published, it was the first time I saw my father cry. — Helena Ku Rhee

When I turned 50, I gave up on finding love. Alone and depressed, I went to a friend’s Christmas party in San Francisco. There, I met John and felt an immediate spark, a sense of the extraordinary. But our conversation — and the party — ended. We met serendipitously over the years. John was never single. I gave up on love again. Then, hundreds of miles away in the High Sierra, I tried a new hiking trail. John appeared, also alone. Sensing the extraordinary, we finally kissed. And still do. — Hunter Mills

“It only kills old people anyway,” the young doctor said to my 72-year-old grandmother. Miffed, she recounted this interaction to me over the phone. “I could have a good 20 years left!” My grandmother mails me homemade quilts. She cares daily for my disabled mother. She baked cookies for an entire hospital floor of nurses after her successful surgery. Her presence adds richness to the world. I dream of a future in which I can see her again, and in which others see her as more than expendable. — Shayna Fleming

There were “Thinking of you” roses, “Congratulations” roses and “Happy Birthday” roses. Adam sent me what he considered to be “I love you” roses, but I knew that they were “I’m busy” roses. He never spent a holiday with me, not even an anniversary, nor a moment to celebrate my academic milestones. Unknown to him, his flowers made me cry. Each bouquet reminded me of the loneliness he made me feel. How wondrous that now that I am single, I am no longer lonely. — Beatrice Talmage

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