The Third ‘Fourth’ Is the Charm
While I was dancing, another grad student said, “I know someone who dances just like you.” “No one dances like me,” I said; besides, I was pursuing women. But next semester, when I saw Steve, a decidedly male student in a turtleneck, my entire body shook with passionate interest. Later, when I saw him dance, I was offended: “I don’t dance like that!” Funny, though, that my dancing that night captured his interest. Within four months of meeting, I proposed marriage on July 4 weekend. Four months later, he said yes. Now, long married, we are still dancing, somewhat alike. — Michelle Mood
Don’t Cry for Me
“I hate when people cry at funerals,” my mother said. “When should they cry?” I asked. She looked at me as if I were crazy. I knew her answer: Never. But she cried, when she thought no one was looking, for my dead father, the love of her life, and for my brother, lost on the streets. I gave a party for her when she passed away. She would have liked it. Some mourners shed tears, despite the fact that I wrote “Don’t Cry!” on the cake, and propped a small, stern photograph of her in the blue icing. — Susan Parker
An Envelope of Photos
I remember Mom bringing you home to our Moscow apartment, a tiny life wrapped in a white blanket. We shared a bunk bed for years. You threw yourself to the floor, a temper tantrum — Grandma wanted you to take your summer reading seriously. We both longed for our absent fathers. You often expressed yourself fully, and I envied your fearlessness. I played a good girl: disciplined, wounded, inhibited. I moved far away. We grew apart. Until you unearthed our old pictures, mailing them for my birthday. And there we were: My hand steadfast on my little sister’s shoulder. — Gloriia Novikova
See the Light?
“Help Papa get off oxygen,” my toddler prays each night for my father. Before Papa’s Covid-19 hospitalization, my son was admitted with pneumonia. Only 2, he knows the prick of needles, the web of tubes, the tickle of plastic in the nostrils. “That itch your nose,” he said to Papa sympathetically. On July 4, we avoided crowded firework displays to watch amateur shows from the porch of my parents’ rural West Virginia home. The sun set, bats swooped, the sky exploded with color. My son and father held each other as they marveled at light in the darkness. — Anna Rollins