Udo Middleman1 adores2 Lily3.

1 Udo Middleman’s appearance can be described in a word—ramshackle. He wears brown trousers, worn through shoes and a wrinkled flannel shirt that looks as if it’s just been pulled from the washing machine. His mouth smells like a mackerel, and he speaks with braying voice. He never smiles. Udo looks like an old man shoved into the body of one older, grotesquely wrinkled and slumped dramatically. His eyes are furious with life.

Udo lives on Tugaloo Street in Tucson, Arizona. His is one of a thousand single-story ranch houses, stony yard sloping down to the river of black asphalt meandering through the neighborhood. Every day is white hot and speckled with carrion crows that skirl and heckle anyone who ventures outside. Udo does not venture outside. Having lived alone the majority of his life, he prefers to be left alone. Udo permits no guests. No phone calls. He does not entertain Jehovah Witnesses or Cutco Knife salesmen.

Out from his living-room window, Udo’s eyes look up and down Tugaloo Street like a searchlight. As every morning for the past two years, he waits for the newspaper girl to bike by with the daily paper. He’s never actually met her, but Udo calls her Lily—he likes the sound of the “L”s so close together: “Lllilllly.”

2 Udo orders seven cases of artificial spray snow. Stacked in the entryway, the cardboard boxes contain twelve thirteen ounce cans each and stand as tall as a six foot three inch Christmas tree. And though it may be logical to order artificial snow in Arizona, Udo has other appropriations for the aerosol flurries than festive embellishment.

The living-room window has thick russet-colored curtains. Udo pulls the tatty couch under the window away from the wall and shuttles the curtains to either side, letting the morning sunlight streak in. With circular motions, Udo sprays the surface of the window with artificial snow until the glass is covered. Then Udo drags his crooked finger through the synthetic snow leaving clean, clear trails. He writes: “Knock!” The next day he sprays snow over the previous message and fingers: “Come in!” The next day: “I am here!” And so forth, day after day after day.

3 Lily’s name is not Lily—it’s Lorie Geniste. Lorie’s soul is packed in eye-catching luggage: supple and bright brown skin, full lips and swivel hips. Her young epidermis absorbs the Arizona sun making her warm to touch, luminous. And dark.

Lorie has delivered The Sun Times in this neighborhood for two years. And despite the occasional affirmation from the distribution manager, throwing papers has for so long devolved into a collection of lonely tasks. Lorie lives in a space of her own absorption, longing for affirmation from someone that odd hours and the color of her skin seem to prohibit. So it makes perfect sense that upon seeing curious invitations scrawled on the window of a house on Tugaloo Street, day after day after day, that Lorie would venture to respond, tentatively rapping on the heavy wooden door. A hunched old man smelling like Santa Claus and chum opens the door gesturing for Lorie to come inside, his lips stretched as though smiling. She steps in looking back to check on her bicycle left in the driveway—the door snicks shut behind her like a wound closing over the space where it had been.