And lo and behold, he’s like, yeah. Yeah, I was just reading them on my phone, and I just started trying to respond to every single one of them. You know, as I was reading it, I was just like, oh my God, this is Steve Brady. Instead, we drifted apart because he, as he put it, was like Jack Nicholson’s character in “As Good as It Gets”: not ready for a long-term commitment and unsure he would ever be ready. Here I was, on my way home from work, a block and a half from my Manhattan apartment, already mentally having shed my shoes and bra. There’s something about grieving by yourself that’s really hard, because by the time he passed away, we had broken up. It was love. [LAUGHS] And my poor hair stylist was like, are you OK? He had died suddenly on vacation, circumstances unexplained. We both felt really strongly about things being just and things being fair, and leveling the ground for people who need it. I only had to read the first sentence or two before I knew the firefighter in this story was my brother. The fact that he was a firefighter, the fact that he did that, the fact that it was Manhattan —. He shocked me by knowing Emory University, my alma mater, saying, “That’s where they shot ‘Into the Wild.’” He was a travel fiend. After spooky things started happening in our new house, a scary thing happened in our marriage. I would dive into a debate that should have been contentious and belligerent, but never was. He hadn’t managed to escape that legacy, telling me he was now eight years sober. I’m a snob. To be honest, I was so close to shutting him down. It always does something to my face. I’m married to a New York City firefighter and my brother was also one. Steve and I agreed on a lot of things, and politics was not one of them. And when I fled outside in search of escape, there were two firetrucks. That’s a great question. You were reading them on your phone and —. How do you know Stephen? New episodes every Wednesday. And then for here we are, a year and change after he passed, to have him pop up in, of all places, the romance column of The New York Times, it was just like one last surprise from him. There are so many stories. Everybody at his wake was kind of coming forward with this different story of how, oh, how do you Stephen? The wedding happened, life progressed, my husband died. I accept this about myself. Modern Love is a weekly column, a book, a podcast — and now, in its 16th year, a television show — about relationships, feelings, betrayals and revelations. I knew he wasn’t on either rig, but their presence at that moment made me think, yeah, he heard me, just as he always did. So much has happened since then. The next day, I opened the article. Some lemon seltzer. The world seemed darker without him. I believed that too for a long time, until I thought I was pregnant after a night of being drunk in my 20s. I realized abortion was a right I would readily claim and could not in good conscience declare myself anti-abortion, if I was so ready to choose it for myself. It was about this young boy who was 10 and was watching his father get arrested. I figured, he’s a civil servant. He was a hell of a lot more interesting than I, in my snobbery, had given him space to be. Surfacing somewhere in hour two of our first date, conservative libertarian (him) versus bleeding heart liberal (me). Old never happened for him. The reality of it, discovered in such a casual way, broke my heart a second time. They need someone who goes in there and cares. They threw him on the ground and they handcuffed him. And like, we were just coming at it from two different points of view. “‘Old Never Happened for Him,’” Kathryn JarvisKathryn lives in coastal Georgia. It didn’t go as expected. People say addicts can walk into a room and spot other addicts. Love stories cut short by the unexpected live on in alternate endings. The family members and friends of the firefighter who were featured in the episode include Trish Brady, Jill Butler, Brendan Lee, John Luongo, Chuck Jankowski, Dorrie Jankowski and Christopher Treacy.Want more from Modern Love? I was like, that’s his impression about police. We’ve had the protests, a lot of violence. When he asked me how I knew, I said, “You never looked at the drink menu.”. Watch the TV series and sign up for the newsletter. That morning, my phone literally just started blowing up. And boom. He came from good Irish Catholic stock, but had been a bit of a prodigal son, and was slowly making his way back through daily prayer, Bible reading and meditation. The host of “Patriot Act” reads an essay about how past trauma informs the present. I knew it was him from the first sentence. With each date, another debate. It’s such a reminder of how fleeting love can be in relationships, and yeah. “But don’t you think —” he would start, knowing good and well I didn’t think whatever was about to come out of his mouth. These two stories about a man and his dog may help. Someone emailed me this article. This was life. He is 6 feet 4, dark skinned, hawk-eyed and curmudgeonly. My father was born in southern Georgia in the 1950s, and like a lot of men of his generation, he struggled with addiction. And the police officers were white, and the boy was Black. [LAUGHS] I do, actually. I’m seeing you for the first time, I think. You’re right. I think the biggest shock for me was actually how many submissions were about death. This week’s essay was written by Marlena Brown and read by January Lavoy. The “Velvet Buzzsaw” actress reads an essay about interracial relationships and self-acceptance. They disagreed on a lot of things: She was a “bleeding-heart liberal”; he was a “conservative libertarian.” He “came from good Irish Catholic stock”; she called herself a “hopeful agnostic.”, When the firefighter chased her down the street to ask her out, she pinned him as “a bald, white, middle-aged New York City cliché.”. He and I carried the weight of our fathers, his a cop, mine a Black man in America. Because unlike mental illness, or even abortion, I had living, breathing skin in this particular game. No, and he would be like, yeah, you know what? When they had a chance to show him something different, I’m like, they chose wrong. And I was like — [STAMMERS] — my brain didn’t even know what to do with that. He’s going to take that through the rest of his life. He died, as the author says, suddenly last year. But I wasn’t expecting to open the inbox and come across all these, you know, very tragic stories, but also very ubiquitous stories. That really wasn’t what it was about. What I needed was context for the firefighter’s point of view, which I got one warm, summer evening when we met in Central Park for a concert. I bought the house.”, “Firefighter Chases Woman Down Street,” Marlena BrownMarlena works in book publicity in New York City. And I think in certain measures, it’s kind of necessary. Nevertheless, we dated in college, happy until the Vietnam War intervened. The biggest trauma for a lot of people is losing someone they love, and so they often sit down to sort that out in words, and to try to make sense of it, and often to try to memorialize the person and honor the person. It would be a hard conversation, but it would be a hard conversation worth having, because I think at times like this, it’s so easy. Photo. The executive producer of New York Times audio is Lisa Tobin. Modern Love in miniature, featuring reader-submitted stories of no more than 100 words. Music by Dan Powell. And I think Marlena probably has a lot of strength. What if the fastest path to a committed relationship is to actively avoid one? Like, you want to bond with people who feel the same, you want to make sure that your feelings are being affirmed. He was afraid of having a marriage like his parents’ often strained union. Something I think I had been waiting for for almost a year it was just being able to connect with people who knew him and be able to grieve with them. So —. It had happened in Georgia. Do you feel like he would be a good person to be talking to now, or would it be a harder conversation now? I think at the end of the day, what made it work, or why we were able to have productive conversations, is that we both — when it came to our core values, like the things that we thought were important, we were actually coming from the same place. But I didn’t with him, instead pointing out that racism is not only about extreme acts like burning crosses. I wonder if that truth holds for those like me, who teeter on the edge of that slippery slope, trying like hell not to fall, while wondering, isn’t it just easier to give in? [LAUGHS]. And I just — I found it so hard grieving and not having anyone around me understand how huge of a loss it was, because they just didn’t know him. The firefighter and I met on one of the rare days I decided to wear lipstick. When are you going to let me take you out?”. But at the same time, too much of that it becomes an echo chamber. I’m a sucker, so I fell for it. So he didn’t act defensive when you would bring up stories that people would ordinarily be defensive about? I wish I had the time and patience to write a book of those stories. Often, I can see him falling on the side of, you know, police officers. We also learned that spirituality served as an anchor for us both. That was their immediate response. At first, I glanced at the title and thought, oh, it’s another fireman story. Some guy was using my image to con women online, so I messaged him. Steve, he had his own opinions that were very strong, and I think that created some friction between him and a lot of other people with him. And then, when talked about his lack of eyebrows, that cemented it. And he said, “My dad and uncle used to work out of the precinct a few blocks away.”. — friend from the firehouse, and I laughed and I opened it, and then I cried after I read it. He’s going to think about this moment. And everything was just this, like, shock of you thought you knew the guy, but there were a million different pieces to him. I get firefighter stories all the time. I’m curious what — since so many of your conversations with him were about police and about race, I’m wondering what kind of conversations you would be having if you were together? When he let loose about how officers have a hard job and sometimes “unfortunate” things happen, it took all of my hard earned Southern charm to answer diplomatically. We moved on. Like literally, tried to leave every place that he entered a better space than the way that he found it. Politics were another story. At the same time, I was just weeping. And I think it makes sense, given the fact that you would want to write about loved ones you lost or are losing. And also to Ryan Wegner and Kelly Rogers at Audm. Not racism, not abortion, not substance abuse. I worry about him every time he makes the three-hour drive from Atlanta to Albany, Georgia, where I was born. If grief is the price of love, I am unable to pay. Because I remember like, just kind of listening to him talk about his involvement in — like, in his union at work or like in town councils. It’s pretty good, except that there is some construction, it seems like. I think about that a lot. These two stories about a man and his dog may help. His defense of police officers made sense because these were no longer abstract issues. Love will sound a little different this season. The “Sex Education” star reads an essay about the oppressive codes regulating male behavior. “I think you’re a beautiful woman. That night, I got very drunk. The month of my wedding, Randy called, asking me not to go through with it. “I was still working, it was expensive, I lived five hours away, all valid reasons not to make the purchase.” But when Randy died, her perspective changed: “Life is short, he was gone. I feel a certain sort of way about police relationships with African-American people — particularly Black men here in the U.S. And then that’s real. I know he touched so many lives and was special. He never took my suggestion, but there’s that. If I had to guess that a reason for him chasing me down the street that day, it was the lipstick. Which was great, until I could no longer keep my eyes open at work. He hoped to hike down through Gibraltar and work his way into northern Africa doing volunteer work along the way. Racism exists on a spectrum, and those microaggressions I’ve experienced — being asked why I always look so angry, or finding out a man has stopped seeing me because his family doesn’t want him dating a Black woman — may seem masculine to him, but cut me deep after a while, enough small slices to cut off a limb. Randy was a good Jewish boy. What was that for you, to receive almost instantly upon already dealing with the piece coming out, with all of these really revealing and emotional emails from people who knew him so well? So I wanted to ask you about the morning the piece went live on The Times website, within hours, we started getting emails from people who recognized this firefighter. My roots are in the South — I am a descendant of slaves — and I’m always looking for somebody to say something stupid about racism so I can lose my mind. Crossing into Manhattan, he let it fly that he didn’t think racism in New York City was as bad as people claimed. For what reason, I don’t know. That broke my heart. How I Got Caught Up in a Global Romance Scam, Tiny Love Stories: ‘I Had a Lot of Feelings and Nowhere to Put Them’, A Man (and Meals) Worth Losing Sleep Over, Tiny Love Stories: ‘We Call Ourselves the Smalls’, Tiny Love Stories: ‘Do I Always Tilt My Head Like That?’. So imagine my shock when, seven months after we stopped seeing each other, I googled him and found his obituary. I could tell she must be very special to Steve because she got to know him very well, which wasn’t an easy thing for a lot of people. Because that is what people actually need. When Dan asked Marlena what she and Stephen would be talking about today, she said: “It would be a hard conversation, but it would be a hard conversation worth having.” “When it came to our core values,” she continued, “we were actually coming from the same place.”. I do. That one sentence, as casually as he let it slip, created a huge shift in my perspective. Which is why I always know when my husband is lying. In my heart, I knew Randy and I would end up together when we were old. But he did his reading, which is why I respected when he had an opinion. Modern Love Podcast: When Getting Old Never Happens, Hosted by Daniel Jones and Miya Lee, produced by Kelly Prime and Hans Buetow, and edited by Wendy Dorr; music by Dan Powell; read by Kathryn Jarvis and January Lavoy, Modern Love Podcast: Zawe Ashton Reads ‘Confronting Race, Religion and Her Heart’, Modern Love Podcast: Ncuti Gatwa Reads ‘Why Can’t Men Say “I Love You” to Each Other?’, Modern Love Podcast: Lorraine Toussaint Reads ‘Race Wasn’t an Issue to Him, Which Was an Issue to Me’, Modern Love Podcast: Hasan Minhaj Reads ‘Researching Jenna, Discovering Myself’, Modern Love Podcast: Saoirse Ronan Reads ‘Grappling With the Language of Love’, Modern Love Podcast: Jameela Jamil Reads ‘How ‘Lolita’ Freed Me From My Own Humbert’, Modern Love: True Stories of Love, Loss, and Redemption, Tiny Love Stories: True Tales of Love in 100 Words or Less. Times subscribers are invited to join Modern Love for a free evening of performances, videos and special guests, celebrating the new “Tiny Love Stories” book. Credit. And you can get so caught up in, again, thinking that you’re right and thinking that this is the only point of view, that sometimes stepping over and kind of talking to someone from the other side — as long as it’s respectful, as long as you are recognizing that we’re both complex and we’re nuanced and things are complicated — that can be healing as well. We also have swag at the NYT Store and two books, “Modern Love: True Stories of Love, Loss, and Redemption” and “Tiny Love Stories: True Tales of Love in 100 Words or Less” (forthcoming). Our tiny love story was written and read by Kathryn Jarvis. But two days later, during our first phone call, he broke out of any box I tried to put him in. I still see him in my dreams. When it comes to forbidden love, a “romantic plan isn’t enough.”. Hosts Daniel Jones and Miya Lee explore the complicated love lives of real people through conversation and storytelling, based on the weekly New York Times column. Highlights. Feeling election stress? Oh, well he talked me off the ledge when I thought I was at rock bottom with my drinking. And to this day, I can’t tell you why I decided to give him my phone number. I hear you. And I sent all of those along to you. Special Thanks to Julia Simon, Nora Keller, Mahima Chablani, Laura Kim, Bonnie Wertheim, Anya Strzemien, Sam Dolnick and Choire Sicha. But I always in the back of my head think that he had — he always managed to surprise me on some of his opinions, or things that he was willing to kind of accept and listen to. And I think in that way, it’s kind of liberating and inspiring too. What surprised you the most about what the content was, what was coming in, once you started reading submissions? Listen to “Driveway Elegies” — stories of heartache and home. And it just struck me how much he actually cared about people. An avid music fan, he wanted to visit Macon, Georgia because of the Allman Brothers. You know, we didn’t even identify him by name in the piece. Listen to “Driveway Elegies” — stories of heartache and home. So in that pillow fort you’re building, do you have any seltzer by any chance? Yeah, like four or five texts of it from different people who I used to work with from the fire department. Like, it’s going to involve death, but it’s not just about the fact that death is sad, or you know, how’s it part of the story, and how’s the story about something else, really? Thanks for bringing back a piece of my brother to me. He was an unstoppable force, while I, arms crossed, eyebrow cocked, remained an immovable object. After dinner, we strolled through the center of Tarrytown, jabbering nonstop. Time passed. Today’s essay is “Firefighter Chases Woman Down Street,” published in February 2020, written by Marlena Brown, read by January Lavoy. It is. He stopped me in my tracks and wasted no time. The cook would arrive after midnight and whip up a Michelin-worthy spread. He went quiet at that — a sign I would later understand to be him seriously considering what I had said, because yes, happily, there were more dates, and even more debates, each one digging deeper into controversial issues.
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