o,” he said. “My tacos are special.”
I told him I wanted another, and he complied. The second one was better than the first. I was swimming in a sea of flavor. My tongue swelled in my mouth, my stomach clapped happy.
“You’re disgusting,” she said.
“Are you here every day?” I asked the man. “I move around,” he said. “The city is like my lover.”
When we first moved to the city we had sex every day. In the evenings we’d walk to the park. The trees were like fountains in those days, leaves quivering in celebration of our arrival. We both had new jobs, and each season seemed to swing on a wild, beneficent axis, catapulting us along in crisp detail and fine tase, sweet alacrity in doing and tasting and feeling. We’d make each other come within minutes. The very air we breathed was exhilarating. It lasted like this for a while. I loved her.
The third taco I had to chase down the night after I’d met the gnome. He’d moved to a different street and when I found him, he shook his head.
“Where is your girlfriend?” he asked.
“At home. She hates me now.”
“If you keep eating my tacos she will.”
“I told you, my tacos are special. They do weird things to men who are not in control of their feelings.”
“I am in perfect control of my feelings.”
The taco went down like a rocket in my throat, and the juices exploded inside till I was warm all over. The fume of some spice lingered in my mouth, as piquant as the smoke of a firecracker. I felt alive.
“What makes them so good?”
The gnome chuffed.
“Flaco, I use the best. The aching parts.”
“I don’t understand.”
“What you’re eating is beauty because someone suffered to make it. Me.”
I noticed a change soon enough. She didn’t want me to visit her office anymore. She didn’t want to have sex. Where we’d been wheeling and skipping along before, we now drifted. I asked her what was wrong, and she shrugged. She said she didn’t know. One night I saw her dropped off on the street by one of her coworkers. He kissed her on the mouth when she left the car, reaching out fir her, desperate, like he was starved and hungry for her.
“Are you fucking him?” I asked when she came in.
“Yes,” she said. “I’m sorry.”
The fourth and fifth tacos I took home to show her. I sat on the toilet and ate them while she bathed. I moaned as I chewed.
“You’re pathetic,” she said.
“He makes them special for me, I swear. The best tacos in the world. They please me like nothing else. Not even you.”
“I don’t want you. I don’t feel anything for you anymore.”
Her words didn’t hurt because I’d heard them before, back when we were still in our small hometown. We’d been together since middle school. The city was supposed to be our new life, a thrilling experience, an escape from boredom.
“I don’t want you either. I have tacos now and a new friend.”
“He doesn’t like you. He sees you as the hick you are.”
I never got to the sixth taco. The city bewildered me. It had transformed into something hideous. I found the gnome in an alley. Someone had beaten him and robbed his taco stand, the ingredients strewn everywhere like trash.
“Do it,” he said. “I can’t make you anymore.” He knew what was coming. I pulled the gun from my jacket. I’d bought it after leaving her. She said I’d be back and maybe I would because I had no where else to go. But this man would have to die for seeing my need.
“Do it!” he screamed. “Do it, flaco!”
When I came back for her I was covered in blood. But not because I had killed the gnome. I’m not a monster. I’d thrown the gun down the alleyway where it scraped and clacked over the asphalt. The gnome’s eyes were wet and bright in the dark, and he was smiling as I left. No, I was covered in blood because I’d gone to the store in a rampage. I got all the ingredients I needed, including the bloodiest steak I could find. I had onions and peppers and lettuce and cheese and soft shells. I’d ripped open the meat on the way home. I’d chewed on it like a dog. Wiped my face with it. Cried in it till tears filled the teeth-holes. It was going to be the tenderest meat she’d ever tasted. Like a piece of my own heart.
She was watching TV as I set everything down in the kitchen. She looked at me curiously, with a spark of affection, like she’d forgotten about the other guy.
“Hope you’re hungry,” I said. “I’m making tacos.”
Scott Neuffer is a writer from Nevada.