How We Solved the Problem

by a contributor

John Oliver Hodges

Tina gives up rings and reading, gives up sucking my finger. I give up biting her toenails, not wearing underwear. No longer do I smell Tina’s short feet or lick her eyeteeth. Tina stops mopping on her precious lotions, thank the Lord, her Dermetics and Soothing Aloe Relief Moisturizer. I put my camera down. Haven’t snapped for a week. My hands feel off, ants all over my body.

Instead of eating up on peanut butter and Saltine sandwiches, instead of swimming, instead of making love through hot afternoons, we take these long-ass walks, like for miles. Today we cross the Halifax. We sit on a bench facing the Royal Steak House on Main Street, and watch folks walk through the glass doors for dinner. Everybody eating at the Royal is rich. Got ties on, suits, the women in fancy dresses and hats, the cars in the lot Buicks and Cadillacs. “I want steak,” Tina says. “You got enough? I want cow, real meat soaked in blood.”

“Should I give up carrots?” I say.

“Slave,” Tina says. “The only way is to go all the way. Once we go all the way we can go back to before. You can take pictures again.”

“All the way?” I say.

She didn’t mean to say what she said, but she said what she said, is embarrassed by it.

I wonder what she misses more, my touch, or her bottle of Jergens Soft Shimmer.

“A riddle,” I say. I say, “if you eat meat your pussy will taste like crap, but if you don’t eat meat, I’ll never eat your pussy again.”

“Jesse, don’t.”

“But wait. You already are a carnivore. For a minute I forgot.”

“Jesse,” she says.

And I want to bite into her arm, taste her blood in the late afternoon sunshine. What she will feel won’t touch what I felt. I don’t touch her. I check my wallet. “All I got’s enough for McDonald’s,” I say, and we head down the strip, cross A-1A, enter McDonald’s. I order two Big Macs and a super-size of fries. It’s gross, but it’s gotta be done. We’ve decided. We take our tray to a table and, being Tina’s the meat eater, she goes first, denuding her burger with dainty fingers. Her mouth opens, even before she’s brought the thing to it. Her lips pull back around her teeth. Before the stuff enters her mouth, I see the dangling thing guarding the entrance to her throat, a little bell ringing out the music of our lives.

John Oliver Hodges lives in Brooklyn. He wrote The Love Box, a collection of short stories that won the Tartt First Fiction Award, and War of the Crazies, a novella. His writing and photography have appeared in 100 journals, and can be found here and here and here.

See John’s upcoming list of 5 Things in our ongoing contributors’ series.