He was the lover I took up with time and again. For him, I wanted to bloom in any season, to create a sort of non-annual flowering that that bore the healthy radiance of well-kept perennials, but with more color. In spring and summer, on my thighs, magenta roses bloomed; Gerber daisies covered my breasts, surrounding my nipples. Enormous hibiscus blossoms grew from the crack of my ass and a dappling of heathered groundcover moved from my shoulders down my back, intersecting with an occasional group of forget-me-nots and a scattered dash of bachelor buttons.

I could not hide my color when it sprang out this way. At times, it was embarrassing. I could not go to work naked. I could not wear clothes without crushing the flowers. I could not crush the flowers without watching their wilting corpses seem like bedraggled, ill-used ladies in the evenings, creased with the borrowed age of the weight of cotton or linen or rayon or wool. All day at work, there was the sensation of their petals shifting, growing mangled, twisting and pinching against confinement, being ravished by a cruel invisible foe below my garments, which was my own motion, but the other ladies whispered if something pink or blue popped free, speculated endlessly on my loose living, and only accepted me again when I looked as bewildered as they were, as joyless, wrecked, and tired.

Amidst the other admins there were those with pine needle hair, those with sweet grass lashes, those with any number of variations of plant or water-life entwined with their features. But I was afraid to show my full bloom because they taught me fear already with their jealousy: "You don't belong here," they would say. "You will outwork us," they would whine. "Why are you here? Shouldn't you work where the fancy people are? Go find your own kind." But by fancy they meant trashy. By outwork, they meant upstage.

I came to know that, like social workers, they always meant a worse word than was used, but I looked like them in shadows, in partial views, seated at my desk answering the phone again and again, "Ingenue Enterprise. How may I direct your call? Please hold."

Yes, there were the year-round strangling ivy vines that did not cease from my elbows to my fingertips. The morning glories wrapping around my legs from knees to ankles that seldom bloomed. But when I got home from work each day, in the blooming, in the spring and summers, nearly always, there was the lover. He was seasonal, like fruit, like me.

He had dark brown hair with summer blue tips. His lips fit my fingers perfectly, my elbows, my groin, my face. He came to me most often in April, saying, "I'm back," as if we had agreed that each year he would come just as casually, as if he were a migrating bird to fly south for me, as if I had not cried and pulled my hair out the last time he left, swearing he could rot in hell before finding his way back into my bed, which was soil and cocoa bark, which would be forever closed to him, I swore-- which had been empty but was full again when he arrived-- because he knew how to make a woman wait. He counted on the months between these absences to soften and confuse me, exclaiming, shouting, singing, "I'm back! I'm back," on his return, his refrain always announcing new arrivals like they were the Roman holidays of my lifetime, like I should say something delighted or embrace him as if his last absence were solely an eight month trip to the distracting grocery store of someone elses. For milk. For more flowers. For fresh meat. For good cream.

"You're back," I'd say. "That's nice. Did you want to come tell me I taste like earth and moonlight again? That was last year's line." Sometimes, I'd say, "I'm tired. I'm bored. I've been working all day, and I did not order take-out, boomerang dick for dinner, as far as I know, so why don't you leave?"

He would smile like I had been glad to see him, like I had said something endearing. This was his winsome charm. "I came to touch you," he would say, coming so close to me I felt him brush the flowers, their pistols, their stamens, the thin tips of their petals. I would say, "No," as he leaned closer, but he would keep touching me, which I could not resist, touching me so well that even the bruises on the flowers trapped under blazers and fine button-up blouses all day would relent and freshen.

Invariably, after days of his attentions, I would let him close again, stop sniping, and give him the joy face I knew he wanted. He knew what to do with a woman who blossomed. Sometimes, he sniffed my skin and sighed, touched my flowers ever so lightly, just with fingertips, or shook their blooms between his thumb and index finger to move pollen from one to the others. Other times, he blew warm breath across the blooms on my lower back as if his exhale alone could spread my golden dust, his breath like a sunlit breeze warming my meadows and vales.

"Thank you," I'd say.

"You're welcome," he'd reply.

For months, we would go on making love until I worked, which was when he waited and bathed and did crosswords and cooked himself udon and dreamt his wayfaring dreams--and then we made love again, nights falling softly into days, entranced again with each other, one day after another, until I could hardly concentrate at work, until I could not tell his body from my own, until his hands were extensions of my heart's desire and quiet whispers, until his eyes were the mirror I best preferred to see my own sight by. His body was hard and cold like stone.

Sometimes, he crushed me. Often, "You're blooming," he'd say. "I love that."

Then on weekends, he'd play Chopin on my grandmother's upright piano and make carrot soup and lobster salad. He would dance all night with me, especially through the month of July, me nude save the flowers, him in a light t-shirt and ripped jeans, as we stood in the garden behind the green split-level house where we met, the one I bought from him one day, and where, during the protracted transaction, we fell in love.

Then fall came when my flowers died. I tried to prolong their life, whispering to my skin, "Please. Please..." But they would not stay. The arm and leg vines stayed, but across my body, brown brambles, the texture of branches, a wood like rasp, proliferated. "You are too hard. You scratch now," he would say, packing, picking up the handfuls of shed dying petals from the hardwood floors, lifting them to his face and sniffing, almost nostalgically, before looking back towards the door he tended to walk through. Moments later, he would leave that door and then be gone.

Considering his recent loss, bereft, watching more flowers darken and die on my flesh, I would wish to bloom for him in any season. I would curse him, waiting through the hard, cold months of the rest of the year when the ladies I worked with grew fonder and kinder, strangely seeming to like me more in heart-ache, in dull ache, seeming to know that my bloom had fallen from the bud.

Bolstered by their platonic, nurturing love, I would swear off him and his irrational leave-takings. I would look for more perennial and durably rooted men--those for whom my vines would suit all year long. I would find them. They would bore me. As the months passed I would forget the lover, forget how it felt to have him cease to darken my doorstep, cease to dance with me all night long, hard, pressed close, naked in the yard he once owned and then sold me. I'd curse him for how the ephemeral textures of his stays had thwarted all measure for regular happiness, making all kinds of lists for myself about how and why I would never take him back.

But winter would end and spring would near as the hurts of the last year grew muted enough to numb, though my mental affliction remained, when I'd be virulent with conflict, loving, hating, mild, and dismayed--flying through light spectrums of his defense and his evisceration, alone in my bed of soil and bark, saying, "I hope that sonofabitch never returns! I barely survived him the last time! He doesn't love anyone! Love lasts longer than a spring and summer. Sniffing my dead flowers? Such a pity! Such a shame! I’m still here, damn it! Look at me and stay this time, you bastard! Heaven preserve me from the hard crush of a man who cuts my heart out every year and returns it to me smaller! He is a murder. A crow flock paused on bad numbers! Awful. I never want to see him again! I don’t!"

But I'd be looking out the door he often walked through as April neared, my riotous body hovering near the jamb, feeling the flowers grow and flare across my body to paint me like a carousel of color, like a chorus of effluvium, and feeling their petals whisper and flush across my chest with a new sensual abandon, quite decisively personally unfurling as the caterpillar thermometer on the outer garden wall inched up through the ides of March…when I would hardly remember what he had done. Or that he had hurt me.

Had he hurt me? Yes. And yet, I would crave his hard come and crosswords, his soup and lobster salad, or hands dancing with knives, seasonal lovemaking, and other sharp-edged things. But mainly—yes, mainly, I’d be listening for, "I'm back."