‘A More Annoying Version of Myself’

The night I met my best friend, Bhavya, we clashed over feminism and plastic surgery. I would go on to describe her as “a more annoying version of myself.” A year later, we argued about the apartment we would move into. We worked our way through medical school, and all the while, we argued: Medical specialties. Netflix shows. Politics. Ice cream. Men. Impostor syndrome. Despite the fights, she would always say, “Stop underestimating yourself; you’re brilliant.” Someday, she will ask me, “How did you meet him?” But for now, let me tell how lucky I am to have met her. — Areej Ali

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A Heart Left to Burn

My nurse wore a pink shirt and blue scrub pants that dragged along the floor. Her frizzy blond hair hung down her back. Her face was tired, as if she had endured a long night, but that didn’t stop her from illuminating the hospital room. She walked with confidence, loved peanut butter like me. She wanted to save the world by using her plastic knife over and over again. But she could never be mine. I would never see her again. What more is love than a heart set on fire, left to burn? — Rose Paine, 13 years old

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My Father, the Empathizer

I sliced off a hefty chunk of thumb while cavalierly cutting up an apple. “Dad!” I screamed. “There’s a piece of my thumb on the counter.” My blood-averse father called for my mother, our family’s go-to in any bodily fluid situation. After my mother cared for my finger, determining that there was no need to visit the E.R., I joked about what this lost chunk might mean for my fingerprints while my sweet father cried. “Dad,” I said, “I’m totally fine.” “I know,” he said. “It just makes me sad watching you get hurt.” — Ana Michels

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No More Zoom Piano Lessons

After my daughter’s Zoom piano lesson ended in tears, she locked herself in her room. I asked my son, Ian, to help me make dinner. “Why is Della struggling so?” I said. “I think she’s upset because we have too many chores,” Ian replied. My single-mother temperature rose, and I spoke angrily to the messenger: “There won’t be fewer chores.” Stirring pasta and folding laundry, I sobbed as Ian and Della came close. Della squeezed my hand. “It’s OK, Mama,” she said. “I’m here.” Ian hugged my waist. “We all melt down sometimes.” I received their compassion with gratitude. — Jennifer Iverson

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