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Stationed as an Army officer in Hawaii, I was alarmed to see my mother calling from Virginia. My father had a stroke. Feeling helpless more than 4,500 miles away, I called my best friend, Nora, an E.R. nurse who lives near them. Within 15 minutes, she drove to the hospital to hold hands, translate the doctor’s prognosis and make sure that my mother ate — everything a good nurse, or a good friend, would do. With my parents settled, I finally asked what had happened. “Oh,” Nora said with a giggle. “They were having sex.” I cringed, grateful for my friend. — Veronica Bean

I was a shy, serious child, coached to “speak up” and “try new things.” I only wanted to read. My grandmother, Inger, worked in the rare book room of the Duke University library, at a desk surrounded by leather-bound volumes on tall shelves. That room smelled like heaven: slightly musty but sweet, with notes of parchment and sandalwood. I’d make a nest under her desk and curl up with a paperback. There among books by Milton and Audubon, I devoured “Stuart Little” and “Sounder.” She gave me space and silence, and I would give almost anything to sit beside her one more time. — Memsy Price


After church, eating cinnamon buns at a diner in Carson City, Nev., I asked my father for dating advice. I was frustrated with the men I had met on apps. He chewed, nodded and smiled. A professor, my father relishes the opportunity to provide wisdom. “Abby, successful relationships are about shared values and companionship.” His words didn’t fully resonate until months later, when Laura approached me at work in the hospital’s courtyard while I was reading on lunch break. When she invited me to join her queer book club, my father’s words drowned out my cautious inner monologue. — Abby Yee

Drive through my favorite stretch of the 101 freeway lined by a small eucalyptus grove, heading south toward sweet Pacific Grove, Calif. On the car stereo, Neil Young reminds me and Blake that “it’s gonna take a lot of love.” Rolling into Monterey, our pace slows from our usual college frenzy. Walk to a nearby monarch butterfly sanctuary then to the beach. Stand on the rocks just beyond the tide’s reach, sun waning. Blake documents our day in his notebook. I don’t react when I read that he thinks he is falling in love with me. Pretend I didn’t see it. — Chase Wilmot



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