w4w, red-haired lover of German lit.

You were on the uptown 6 train last night, reading Kafka slowly, licking your fingertips between pages.

I was sitting across from you. My dachshund Samsa was leaning out of my bag, licking my fingertips between stops.


woman riding rowdy’s bull, sat night

You were at Rowdy’s on Saturday night and conquered the bull. You were wearing all jean, looking real graceful. Jean bandana around bleached hair, jean jacket, white-washed jean shorts with that half-moon of pale ass.

We laughed when you asked the man working the machine for a lift just to get up. I watched the guys sitting near the bull all back up like they expected your body to be launched into the crowd, like a limp fish flapped from the water.

But then the bull started hitching and shifting and dancing and everybody quit laughing. You lifted one arm up, then two arms up, and then were gripping the saddle with nothing but freckled thighs. Rowdy’s got quiet until it was just a mechanical whir cutting through sawdusted air. I mostly watched your eyes, which are grey like the Dust Bowl or like a Tennessee storm, which is where I’m from if you ever do want to meet. You ride bulls like my Tennessee uncles and my Tennessee uncles’ uncles, which is to say like somebody who’s spent most of life trying to tame one thing or another.

One minute, fifty-three seconds. That’s how long you lasted, so you know this is real. I wrote your time down on a napkin just as you slid off the saddle and they all started shouting that you’d beat the top spot. The whole bar leapt from its seats, relieved that a night out at Rowdy’s had, for the very first time, exceeded expectations. My handwriting is a bit blurry now from the spilled liquor and the smeared sawdust, but I definitely remember the 1:53. It was my time you beat.


w4w exotic orchid dealer, flushing queens

Met you at Stall 2B of the The Annual Exhibition of Rare and Beautiful Botany last weekend. I stopped by and we discussed the hybridization of Mid-Pacific islander orchids. Over your pamphlet-covered table, you showed me the manual breeding technique taught to you by the native islander botanists themselves when you went to New Guinea last summer. (Still very impressed by the thoroughness of your research, I must add.)

You demonstrated the emasculation process, how you pull out the flower’s male Anther filament stamen, lest it pollinate itself, and then delicately brush, crosswise, another flower's sweet, feminine pollen. You did this with your fingers in smooth strokes, bent over the table, afterward smearing the edge of your sticky thumb across the curve of my palm, beaded and golden. Taste it, you said.

You told me about your trip as you worked, how you’d traipse all day through steamy brush, licking the sweat off your upper lip and swearing you tasted more like the flowers themselves the closer you got, like liqueur bitters and sea salt. You slept in a grass-thatched hut near the water and wrote dutifully in your notebook the name of every plant you’d found on that day’s excursion and then, next to that, the name of every long-haired woman who’d knelt in the dirt to clip its stem.  

Caladenia pusilla (or small pink fingers) - Nikinu (with blue eyes)

Dyakia hendersoniana - Koina (laughs at own jokes. thin wrists)

The Latin of horticulture is near-native in your mouth, romantic but guttural.

Before leaving, I bought a flower with a crisp, leaning stalk. Its buds were bulging. It will become a flushed red with a patchwork of cream, you said, showing me a small photo of its eventual petals. You told me it would only bloom for a day, maybe less, so I should watch it very closely. Once it begins to open, you suggested I clear my schedule, stay home, sit cross-legged on the floor and place its veined petals in the empty space between my legs. It’s used to blooming with an audience, amidst the drama of an entire cross-hatched ecosystem, violent and throbbing. Do it justice and keep vigil. Its holiness is in its brevity, you said, as I took notes.

This morning it opened. Please, come quick.


w4m lost husband, spotted near 74th and park

I saw your familiar tailcoat flying behind you as you descended into the subway station. I recognized the meticulously stitched hem, mended after a reckless tear at the Northampton Wine Festival three summers ago. I recognized your slivers of polished leather. Pointed Salvatore Ferragamo shoes, Size 11.5. A wristwatch from a trip to Lisbon with a tick so clean and loud it keeps the children up. The briefcase my father gave you for our tenth anniversary, handed graciously across a set table piled with lamb, a final paternal gesture to mend a decade of difficulties becoming his son.

I believe I saw you later, too, hunched over the desk in your study, dim and rocking slightly with concentration. But in truth, I can’t quite be sure.