A disquiet will creep up for no immediately apparent reason. When it hits us, we’ll try our best to to make excuses for it: a bad dream, an unexpected rendezvous, or the dull throes of missing someone. Not always ready to admit that it’s not the effect, but the cause. It’s a basic, inescapable condition of all life.

The anxiety of an unanswered, unknown caller is one we all share, as in Stephen Horenstein’s “The Ring.” Kate Prascher reveals those disjointed feelings you have towards to friends who become joined in marriage in “Jesus: Everybody Find the Rope.” Mateo Lynch’s “That Night” explores the self-justified psyche of an adulter. But for Liz Moniz’s “Waiting in Grace,” there is no making excuses, only resignation with a hint of complacency. Lucy Lyon describes the dual reality of raising children while missing their father overseas in “Small Voices.”

These stories confess the kinds of vexations that are a given in life, and  examine our attempt to quell them. We might push back, push through, or push down, but at least we’re asking questions.

“I get by with a little help from my friends,” sang The Beatles. 

And I haven't heard an untrue feeling out of them yet. But just as much as you need friends willing to help you through a jam, you too must be willing to be helped. 

Our narrator in “Date Night,” by Megan Heise, is questioning whether she’s shown ample gratitude towards her friend Jude. But a basic requirement of friendship is to allow each other to be a little self-absorbed sometimes.

Somewhere along the way in Lisa Aigen’s “Umbria,” two sisters who have not been present in each other’s lives seem to realize they might learn to rely on each other somehow. 

Katie Finlay-Meredith’s “Poem for Dad” begs a heartbreaking question. Should she sterilize herself from memories because they remind her he’s gone? Or will she come to understand that those same memories will bring solace if she lets them?

An irascible king in L. E. Meyers’s tale “Thunderjelly” is threatened by his suddenly saucy Queen, so he rejects her. But it won’t be long before he understands just how much he needs her despite a woman’s prerogative.

Most often there is no clean solution or resolution to struggles in life. The lesson learned isn’t how to deal with the unfortunate, but how to allow yourself  to see the good around it. 

Very little can pass for magic.

The Naga fireballs are a phantasmic mystery. The Northern Lights are a beautiful illusion. A perfectly light and risen soufflé is alchemy. A memory attached to a an object is some kind of conjuring. Much of the universe has yet to be explained, and isn’t that the very definition of magic?

Lolita Brayman describes the life-giving powers of a day’s first coffee in “The Best Part of Waking Up,” while Amy Avgar could not divine the many lives lived around “Granny’s Old Oak Table.” Mystifying details in an eerie scene swirl in Isabelle Phillipe’s “The Death Rehearsal,” and Katie Finlay-Meredith exorcises darkness and depression in “The Vigil,” not by forgetting, but remembering. An apartment dweller finds themselves in the kingdom of a rodent, by way of a consecrated rock in Megan Williams’s “In the Temple of the Rat.”

The “Fountain of Youth” isn’t an age-reversing geyser, but the ocean of wonder that stays with us even in old age. Let these stories be a reminder of the magic in the mundane.

There seems to be a very deniable appeal to romance novels. Although romance is the best-selling genre of paperback book sales, topping a billion in sales annually on average, most romance readers squirrel away their desires, relegating their books to the bedside table. But can we blame readers for keeping their book affairs quiet?

Granted, a majority of romance readers could be your sister, mom, or grandmother (thus some of the last people you prefer to imagine reading Fifty Shades of Gray). Nielsen estimated in 2015 that 82% of romance book buyers are women, between the ages of 30 and 54. I think it’s also notable that—according to the Romance Writers of America website—the most popular way romance readers share what they are reading is in-person, conversations with a friend or family member, instead of, say, sharing or “Liking” the book on social media.

Unsurprisingly, one of the most popular subgenres of romance is the “secret lovers” trope. We live in a society that confoundingly glorifies sexual imagery while vilifying its language in the mainstream. Even ads for something as clinical as contraception are written almost entirely in innuendo, as if we can’t talk about sex without a snicker. Is it fair to say then that words are more dangerous than picture? Well, I’m certainly not going to attempt to answer that here.

Sense Writing helps to create and strengthen channels in our nervous system, allowing us as writers to sense the world more deeply, and interpret it more clearly. As we exercise these neuronal pathways, we train ourselves to experience the world with increasingly lucidity, and, furthermore, making those connections between the physical and emotional. Sexual experience is seldom unchained by emotion, and the stories selected for this issue are just a few examples of how the psychosexual is interpreted in writing.

Shannon Lior’s “Ride” reminds us there’s really nothing like young love, but the memory endures into old age. In this fond recollection, there’s a subliminal notion that there’s something equally special in being able to share that memory with your lover for years to come. On the other hand, Mateo Lynch Gil shows us how relationships, sexual or not, are always evolving. His story “Neverland Smile” is a snapshot of a romantic relationship between two young men, who once let their lives be ruled by it, and now sit spectator as love carries on without them.

Often the physical entanglement is fleeting, or can only be anticipated, never taking place. The title "Salvation," by Collier Lumpkin, suggests that such an encounter can have an everlasting impact. Sometimes, though, just a little is just enough, as in Hannah Mann's "The Stud Farm." She writes, "Though our skins never touch, I feel our souls holding hands." The question remains, are there any regrets?