Tiny Love Stories: ‘I Begged Him for a Sign’

Health & Wellbeing

Modern Love in miniature, featuring reader-submitted stories of no more than 100 words.

We’ve endured lockdowns in Shanghai since March 2022, surfacing with just a day to buy provisions before going back into “house arrest.” My husband’s birthday fell on the second day of the current lockdown. I gave him, my spouse of 22 years, two packs of our favorite Swiss chocolates. He has slowly rationed one bag, not touching the second. Our birthdays are five weeks apart. In the spirit of making do with what we have, he surprised me by giving me the second bag of the chocolate I gave him. He’s been saving it all this time for me. — Quynh Chow

My joyful, bright, freckle-faced younger brother was voted “Joe High School” in his yearbook. Less affable, more opinionated, I was voted “Most Likely to be Heard.” But decades later, no noise could stop the addiction Matt developed to prescription OxyContin. I pushed him to rehab; he said he hated me. After his fatal overdose in May 2020, I begged him for a sign that he didn’t hate me. On his birthday, I found the message he’d written in his yearbook: “Jen … thank you for believing in me … I love you.” When I cried out for my brother, I know he heard me. — Jennie Burke

Addie’s face was a sun-bronzed book cover, every line a different story. “Grandma,” I said, “tell me the secret to life.” I was 8. We were shelling peas under a large Alabama cottonwood tree. She slipped her hand into the pocket of the flour sack dress she had sewn and deftly searched with her fingers. Then, as if by teleportation or magic, an unfiltered Camel cigarette appeared in her mouth. She scratched a match, lit up, took a long drag, and with smoke whirling around her head like a lazy tornado, she winked mischievously and whispered, “Try it all.” — David Powell


Once we’d moved to England, my home country, my husband was refused prescriptions for his testosterone. He knew he was a boy at 5 yet hadn’t come out for decades. Three years after his transition, England was a chance to leave his deadname behind. But to get his prescriptions, the U.K.’s National Health Service made him join a roughly two-year wait list for a gender assessment, as if he’d never transitioned. I’d missed Britain’s cold sun with a fierce longing, but who stays in a country that abandons your man while he’s saying, “I don’t want to live”? — Star Armstrong Tavares

See more Tiny Love Stories at nytimes.com/modernlove. Submit yours at nytimes.com/tinylovestories.

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