On the Number 1 train I look across the car and see a man, probably in his early thirties, balancing a huge poinsettia in his lap.
I study his face. He looks tense; his eyes are examining every quivering red leaf, over and over. My guess: He is bringing this as a gift and is not sure whether it is the right one.
I imagine him arriving at his destination--the apartment of a young woman he has been dating. This is the first time she has invited him to her place for dinner; it is, perhaps, the Big Step. She flings open the door and greets him with a bright smile. She has bouncy hair and a slender figure. She leans toward him, kissing him lightly on the lips, and then looks down at the pointy red blooms in his arms.
“Is that a poinsettia?” Her smile has wilted unexpectedly.
“Um, yeah. For you. From me.” Feeling a sudden sense of impending doom, he holds up the pot so that the top tips are just below his nose.
“Oh…thanks. But…I don’t think that’s good for cats. Can you just leave that out here?” Deflated, he sets the plant next to the doormat and follows her into the apartment. He sees immediately that she does have cats. Plural. In fact he spots four of them, and suspects more hidden under pianos and divans.
As he takes off his coat, he makes a mental inventory of the Match.com responses he had gotten the night before, seeds and whispers of possibility which he had not believed he was going to need.