‘Orchid’ by Mary Gaitskill

Mary Gaitskill is one of the best writers alive today and way ahead of her time. I have no doubt if she were a man she’d be as venerated as Philip Roth or Don Delillo. She’s best known for ‘Secretary’ and Bad Behaviour, and she writes about sexual and emotional politics with a bruise-eyed, wary incisiveness like no other. She’s sharp, but tender-hearted. This story stands out because it’s about a not-quite sexual, not-quite romantic relationship between a queer woman and a once-beautiful boy. The scenes between them glow and ache with unspoken regrets and inchoate longing – not for each other, but for the promise of past selves.

First published in Because They Wanted To, Simon & Schuster, 1997

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