by Daniel Adler

Markham will receive a camera from his little sister for Christmas. One day, he will walk with it and see an Asian couple holding hands on a bench and, sneakily, he will walk around a tree to take their photo. He will go to Walgreens and blow up the photo and print it in black and white on sixteen pieces of eight-and-a-half by eleven.

We know that Markham loves Michelangelo Antonioni and Hou Hsiao-Hsien. Perhaps he will be trying to recreate a scene out of Blow Up or Daughter of the Nile.

He will tape all the sheets of paper together onto his wall so that the woman’s face stares at him when he wakes up. The man looks down and away. When the wind blows, it’s as if the entire wall moves.

A few days later, Markham will see the couple again walking ahead of him. This time he will approach them to talk. As he will assume—because they will be wearing crisp, designer white shoes, the woman in a long-patterned dress and a sunhat, the man wearing an Oxford shirt and tapered trousers, clearly more stylish than the frat tees and sports shorts most of the other people their age wear in this city—he will be pleased to know that they are from China. Qingdao.

Markham took Chinese in college, which he will relate to them, but he will speak in English, embarrassed to make an error. They will be pleased to practice their second language. They are high school sweethearts and came here for their master’s degrees because of the James Taylor song, “Carolina in My Mind.” Jimmy and Wendy—their American names—will smile graciously and Jimmy will ask Markham if he has Whatsapp. They will exchange numbers.

Markham will text Jimmy the next day. Jimmy will not reply for an hour and a half. When he does he will relate that he was at the gym, playing basketball. Markham will say that he too played basketball at the gym today. They will decide to play together the following day.

They will find themselves on the same team in a pickup game against some overweight frat bros. They, with their other two teammates, will win.

Markham and Jimmy will play again twice before they hang out at Jimmy’s apartment. Jimmy lives with another young man, from Nanjing. They will sit around their kitchen table drinking sencha green tea. The conversation will stagnate and Jimmy will ask Markham if he is Christian, will assert that he is. Markham will say he used to be, that he was raised Christian, but that he’s not anymore. Jimmy will ask why. Markham will say he doesn’t want to talk about it. Soon thereafter, his tea gone, Markham will leave.

When he gets home, Markham will turn on the Rockets game. They will be playing the Lakers. He will then take down the sixteen eight-and-a-half by elevens that hang on his wall of Jimmy and Wendy. He will ball them up and throw them in the trash. And he will sit on his bed and watch the rest of the game in silence.

Daniel Adler was born in Brooklyn and grew up in Portland. He wishes poetry and philosophy weren’t so separate.

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