Tiny Love Stories: He Needed Me to Remain a Fantasy


The first time I heard the term “manic pixie dream girl,” I felt a hot shame. My unique rebellions suddenly seemed small. My attempts at self-definition in vain. I wasn’t complex; I was caricature. Always an object, never a subject. Worse, I loved someone who needed me to stay that way. A man who needed me to remain a fantasy forever out of reach. I stepped closer anyway. “Don’t worry,” he said after we fought. “You’re still my muse.” “No,” I thought. “I’m an artist.” — Jerico Mandybur

My Korean parents didn’t grow up with physical affection from their parents, so they didn’t know how to give it. Instead, they patted us on the back — the more vigorous the pat, the more they meant they loved us, were proud of us. I now watch my children, raised with uninhibited physical demonstrations of love, hug and kiss my parents, unabashedly telling them “I love you.” My parents physically reciprocate to their grandchildren in a way they still can’t with their own children. But that’s O.K. We had the shoulder pats. — Haley M. Hwang

I threw a glass bottle on the floor. Shards of glass flew in every direction. “I hate you,” I screamed. My boyfriend, who had accidentally locked me out of our apartment at 3 a.m., sat motionless on the couch, spinning from alcohol and our disastrous party, unable to help. I curled up in tears in the kitchen, accompanied by one hungry mosquito. The next day, he cleaned up all the glass. He got cream for my bug bites. He said sorry. I said sorry. Sometimes little pieces of glass still get stuck in our feet. We just clean them up. — Aja Corliss

“I’m sorry for your loss.” As if you’re lost, like a forgotten wallet or misplaced keys. A phrase used to empathize, to quell unease. I have said it too — about pets and strangers, but never about you. I find you in my deep-set eyes and the cheekbones below. My hands match yours 30 years ago. I see you in my summer tan that’s dark by mid-July, and in the lines that arc around my mouth if I laugh or cry. No, I haven’t lost you, Mom. That could never be. You’re present everywhere, most of all in me. — Alicia Gabe


Tiny Love Stories: He Needed Me to Remain a Fantasy