about the author

Jordan Dotson’s work has been published in Scoundrel Time, Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, Afterness: Literature from the New Transnational Asia, Drunken Boat, Eunoia Review, Magazine of History & Fiction, and MaLa Literary Journal. Born in Appalachian Virginia, he moved to China in 2005 to study classical Chinese poetry and its parallels in American folk music, and he has worked there since as a creative writing teacher, musician, and music journalist. He earned his MFA in Fiction from the City University of Hong Kong. He publishes in both English and Chinese.

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Flower Pot  

Jordan Dotson

At six o'clock he rises, creaking, and says “How are you?” to the flower pot on the table. It is empty. Outside, smog saddens the day. The tram’s copper bellchime sounds through the balcony, and this is a bad Tuesday, he thinks, though it is Wednesday. He checks the clipboard, then wanders off to water your Aglaonema.

In the rust-colored light on the balcony floor, the Aglaonema’s leaves seem older, the silver gone gray. His backbone shifts as he reaches for the can. He glances at the schedule. He’d watered it only yesterday. He listens to the swaying and clatter of the tram. The bamboos loom in the corner. When he glances through the screen door, he says “How are you?” to the flower pot on the table, and it is still empty.

At six twenty-two he coughs and spits and lumbers up from his stool. He pours water into three small cups, one for each spider plant hanging on hooks. He can no longer lift the can so high. Chlorophytum comosum. The yellow-star flowers make his forearms itch. Inflorescence. Next, your penjing tree, which makes him sigh. It’s older than the idiots in the flat next door whose dogs bark all day long. He mists the branches then pours a little stream across the dry sea pebbles. When the new office tower goes up across the street, the morning light will be cut in half. The bamboo will love it, but the penjing will have to come inside.

At six forty-two, he pokes the peace lilies with his fingernail. Two weeks ago, he moved them to the bedroom, but still he wakes up every hour with a devil in his lungs. He carries them back outside where they belong, and as he walks through, he says “How are you?” to the flower pot on the table. Though it is empty.

The begonias he loves. His little butterflies. They need more light than all the others, but can’t bear the heat. Sometimes he finds himself standing in the one room, cupping the pot of begonias in his arms, unsure of how he got there, or why he is humming sad songs.

The African violets are healthy, as always. If not for orchids, he realizes every day, violets would surely be nature’s finest creation. He cleans them with your old makeup brush. Shredded fir bark. Osmunda fern fiber. The potting mix, it isn’t yet dry. He pencils a crooked mark on the schedule and watches it a little while, nervous. Then he turns around, and he glimpses the empty flower pot on the table.

“How are you?”

At ten minutes after seven the corridor elevator clangs to life. He washes the rice and sifts it back and forth, then pours the murky water into a can for the spider plants who love it most. He’s never learned to manage the ceramic pot, nor the ginger basil, and so he just brings the porridge to a simmer and stirs. Then he rests.

At seven fifty-five he ladles the plain porridge into a bowl, then carries it to the table in the one room, and pauses. He turns the bowl a little, sits down with his spoon. Then, as if he’s only just remembered, he speaks, “How are you?” to the flower pot on the table. And yes, it is empty. Though for him, it is still very full. For once upon a time it held your orchid. On that day he brought you home, to be his wife, he watched you carry it inside and place it in the light.

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