Woman from Bulgaria, whose name I forgot right away: I was lying about loving the gudulka. Truth is, I’d never heard a gudulka, at least that I was aware of. But you were so far from home I could tell you would appreciate some measure of validation. This, too: I wasn’t even sure where Bulgaria was. Neighborhood of Romania, correct? I thought of gypsies, and imagined a Sailor Jerry tattoo. And you kind of looked like that, with your wavy black hair and piercing eyes. The eyes of a painter, which you were, though you were too shy to let me see what you were working on. You were afraid of mosquitos, applying to your exposed skin some repellent you’d mixed up in your studio. I told you that back in Minnesota, we considered mosquitos the state bird, but that joke was lost on you. The odor of that cream was distinct, vaguely medicinal, but not unpleasant enough to stop me from burrowing into you on my last night at the colony, which shall go nameless to protect us all. Within that hermitage I was sort of a hermit, so nobody else came down to the recreation building for the farewell beer I’d bought in town, despite my general invitation at dinner. Coronas, which, without ice, I sank in cold water in the sink and sliced limes where perhaps Cheever himself had sliced limes. You were the only one I really wanted to show up, anyway, as the others annoyed me with their mile-a-minute Manhattan chatter. And you were so sweet and curvy, so sexy with your accent, I could not leave without at least trying to plant my flag. Afterwards, you stretched out on my bed, sort of languid and bittersweet, like in the Steely Dan song, and drew a design in the dust on my nightstand, almost absent-mindedly, something that reminded me of a Tibetan symbol. You should know that I took a photograph of it, and pinned it to my bulletin board. For years it was up there like that, a cryptic souvenir, until my nine-year-old daughter happened to examine it one night in my study. She squinted, took it down, rotated it, and put it back. “It’s a bird,” she announced. And it was. I’d been looking at it the wrong way the entire time. Sorry about that. But I did suggest she do her geography homework on Bulgaria, and she assured me that yes, it really is a fascinating and beautiful country.
John Salter is the author of A Trout in the Sea of Cortez, and Alberta Clipper. His short fiction has appeared in journals including Chattahoochee Review, Massachusetts Review, Florida Review, Third Coast, Pearl, Vestal Review, and Meridian. He lives in Fargo, North Dakota.