Balloons lined the curb beside the dumpster there, a festive splash of color to coronate the grand opening of the new supermarket down the block. I found it cute, so cute that I was like the guy who missed the UFO over the splendor of an aurora borealis. When sunsets do fun things in Jersey, we call it the Aurora Jerseyalis. What I didn’t see, I am saying, was the dumpster, man! I mean, I saw it. It was clean and green and stout and ready to be filled with goodies. The balloons did a little magic trick, blindsided me to the fact that there WAS NO CRUSHER.

I went in the store to check it out and saw that this supermarket was a tad different than others, had wide aisles and simple displays and few pathways to back rooms. It also had a thin Asian-American girl worker who I found cute, so cute in her acne and black hair and the no-frills dark blue shirt stamped with the two-syllable name of the new market up the block. She looked at me as I left the store, maybe thinking what a jerk that I would give her an eye.

But here’s the thing: a week later I had an argument with my Asian-American girlfriend, who the night before had jerked around on my rod in a way that made me feel as if she was trying to stuff stuff down my pee hole. I didn’t even mention the thing about the pee hole. I simply stated, the day after the pee hole incident, that she’d laughed loudly in my ear and then when I’d moved my head away from her she’d moved her mouth closer to my ear and had laughed even louder.

But wait, I need to set this up better. She’s not that great with her hands. I don’t think she’s unique in this. When it comes to women giving you the treatment, most get better through trial and error. Sometimes it takes a week. Sometimes it takes six months or longer, because all men are different, right? What works with one may not work with another, but in the bed that night, her hand on my crotch, she had said, “Don’t you think I’m getting better?” I said, “Sure, but you don’t try very hard.” This caused her to laugh screamingly in my ear. I assumed it was over what she knew to be true, but a few minutes later is when I felt the sharp pains concerning said pee hole. I recoiled with Ow!, yet seconds later felt it again, and I felt the residual of it all night and then in the morning too. I’ve heard, and perhaps we all have heard, either from reading about it books or from having it come up in a video detailing the psychological sexual traumas of women and girls, their molestations and such things, how sometimes when a guy fiddles with her place down there, the fiddling sensation remains long after the fact. That was me, just with the opposing thingamajiggy. I wanted to express this to her, not to criticize, but to share. When I mentioned the thing about her scream, though, she became so incensed and angry, accusing me of being selfish and cruel and all this, that I didn’t get to mention it except in the abstract. That was the important talk that we could have been having. Instead she was saying, “Do you really think I am such a monster? Would I purposely try and hurt you? That’s what you’re saying, I can’t believe it,” and she burst into tears. I felt for her. She let me know that our relationship was an uphill battle. It didn’t seem like we would make it. She left me on my stomach on my yoga mat, where we had been sitting, side by side under the air conditioner. As she left I didn’t even look at her. I just said, “I love you,” and then she was gone.

And that’s when I took my walk and passed the dumpster and was like, OH MY GOD! It finally hit me. From the street I saw the dumpster’s mouth gaping and the food brimming inside it, mushroom packs and bread and fresh fruits and boxes of goods. I had not been in the dumpster spirit for a decade. I saw there was a camera trained at the thing, but what of it? I went and loaded my arms with goods, even grabbed a huge shrink-wrapped pizza that, because I didn’t have my glasses with me, I didn’t really notice the nasty pepperonis and meatballs and such stuff on it. I just wanted to get the goods and go for fear that I might get picked up by somebody on the security camera, and who knew but that dumpster diving in New Jersey was illegal.

The way the dumpster was set up, everybody driving by on the busy road could see it, and there were people in the parking lot, too. When I turned to leave, my arms full, a little boy sitting on a tailgate with his brother, waiting for his parents to finish shopping, said, “Look, he’s stealing.” I took several steps, but the cantaloupe dropped to the brand new tarmac. It rolled down the incline back towards the dumpster, and that’s when the back door opened, and out came the Asian-American girl I’d seen that time I went inside the supermarket to check things out. I’d thought she was only a bagger, but apparently she was higher up on the chain. She said, “Put that shit back right now.”

When I stood up she recognized me. I was the guy who’d given her the eye. Said eye was not like hey, me looking her up and down, checking out her business, though I did recognize, it is true, that she didn’t have much going on in the chest department—it was part of the appeal. My Portuguese mechanic who works on my car says my girlfriend is too skinny, that I need a woman with meat all over her. I have no excuses, but I will say that my mechanic, whenever he works on my car, a 1993 Ford Taurus SHO with a cool ass button that when you press it it turns on some kind of turbo-charged element that makes it haul ass so fast that it could outrun a police car, always leaves the damn thing with fresh problems. The SHO is known for its temperamental nature, and that is why you don’t see too many of them on the road these days. They’re all in the junk yard.

When she recognized it was me, her face did that recognition thing, and she walked over faster, and said, “No, you need to come with me. I want you to come inside the store so I can take down your information.”

“I was just grabbing out some stuff. Is there something wrong with that, Miss?”

“Yes, there is,” she said, and picked up the cantaloupe and threw it across the parking lot so that it swooshed into the dumpster.

“Nice shot,” I said.

The little boys on the tailgate were smirking and saying shit, but that was nothing to me. The girl helped me put the stuff back in the dumpster and I went in through the back door with her. “Follow me,” she said, and I did. We walked through a storage area on into an office where the girl, I have to call her a girl because she wasn’t no damned woman, said, “Sit there,” pointing at the table.


“Sit on the table,” she said, “and pull down your pants. If you don’t do it, I will.”

I am not in the habit of doing shit like this, but I did what she said. I pulled my pants down and she told me to make it hard and I did and then she took the soldering iron that she had plugged into the electrical socket in the wall and shoved it down my pee hole.

That’s not what really happened.

The girl never came out of the building.

The little boy said, “He’s stealing,” and I took my stuff quickly up the sidewalk and started walking home, down Watsessing Avenue. I passed the 99 Cent store with its wood rainbow of welcome, looking around for sacks that I could put my stuff in. Such sacks you see all over the place in the world, you can always find a plastic sack, and a plastic sack I did find. I put my stuff on the sidewalk and packed it into the sack. We’re talking two granny apples, a cantaloupe, a banana, a box of gourmet maple oatmeal, a pack of mushrooms and a large sack of Turano Italian bread. The pizza, I realized, was a mistake. I was not gonna leave it on the sidewalk though. I’m not an irresponsible person. I folded the nasty soggy thing in half and dropped it into somebody’s garbage can.

Once home I admired my yield, squared it away in the shelves and the fridge and thought of my girl, who possibly might’ve been pregnant in that she’d missed her period by two weeks. Since the time she had left me on the floor that way, she had texted, writing: “I’m sorry about my clumsiness. I really didn’t mean to hurt you, I think you know that. I’m gonna be leaving in a few days. Let’s try and get along. You asked me before if I wanted to walk. I’m game if you’re into it. Maybe a little later when it cools down,” and she sent a few other texts in which she quoted some poetry about an “immemorial dispute,” and some business about “who harmed whom first.” I texted back with “Hey just got back from the long walk,” and “N i shuld prolly say nothing, but ‘clumsiness’ was never an issue,” which it wasn’t. She was allowed to scream in my ear, not a problem. She could even shove stuff down my pee hole if she really wanted. What got me was the not being able to say something about it without her getting combative and it leading to an argument. My mention of the pee hole thing, in the abstract, she missed completely, and zeroed in on the screaming in my ear thing. To forego the freedom of expressing freely to the woman you loved was a thing I wasn’t sure I could do. It may even have been outside of my ability, which may well have been an unforgivably selfish position.

I felt kinda lousy, but decided to forget about it the best I could, and anyway considered that she intuited or understood my desire, and her reaction was therefore such as it was, a method of protection. Boundaries were needed. I needed to recognize them and respect them, and I thought of the story she told me about when she was young, growing up in Taegu, how there was a pear orchard she walked through on her way home from school. One day a poor girl who lived by the river, and went to school barefoot, followed her home through the orchard on into her house where she rubbed a peach tree twig against her clitoris until she came. My darling was filled with tons of great stories like this, and then there were the abusive men in her life, what she experienced as a child, and then later, too, as an immigrant in Queens, so what right have I to talk? What do I understand? Now she is “naturalized,” as they say, and I love her as much as I’ve ever loved anything or anybody. My life is filled with balloons of happiness and so many great things of togetherness, eating stuff together and kissing and licking and I love sticking my tongue into her body. She always tastes so good. Her flesh is salty, and relationships require work and compromise and relinquishment of control sometimes.

Now allow me to draw up the image of my darling on the bed, hers or mine, bronzed legs up. The bright maroon insides of her boji kill me. It’s like a light shines out from within, and it’s all so small and delicious, like food, I won’t say more, just my thoughts are on dumpsters. I’ve heard men call women dumpfucks and cum dumpsters, but in the world of supermarket dumpsters, there is this to know: there are two types: the open and the closed. The opened ones are found at supermarkets such as Winn Dixie and IGA, that predominantly serve the poor. Back in my thriving dumpster diving days, I scored hundreds of dollars of meat in a single dive, not to mention dozens of pounds of gourmet coffee, wine, canned goods and dairy products. I didn’t eat meat, so I drove it out south of town to give to my poor redneck friends.

Then there’s the closed dumpster, AKA, the crusher, used by the big corporations whose only interest is profit. Is your woman an open dumpster that gives endlessly of herself and provides you with free nourishment? Does she tell you the stories of her childhood? Does she embrace you with an open heart? Does she have freckles and a special nickname for you, and say stuff to you like, “I want you to make me dinner naked tonight?” Do you see it? Or is she a crusher? How much do you pay for your food?

My woman is of the open variety. She has lifted me from the dead life that clung after my divorce, and given me new purpose. I look forward to feeding on her for years to come, yet I recall, this night, as I lay my tired head down to sleep, the colorful balloons announcing the birth of the new supermarket up the block. Whose idea was it, I wonder, to put the balloons near the dumpster? You’d think they’d put them along the side of the building, but no, they were on the curb to funnel your eye straight there, to the dumpster. When I walked down to collect goods for the first time since my wife left me for a richer guy, I noticed how the balloons were still there, just they all had been popped so you couldn’t see them from the road. I thought they looked real sad, popped such as they were, and wilted and wrinkly, each one tied to the string that ran along the curb. Perhaps the Asian-American girl had been told to come out here and pop them once the grand opening was over.


About the Author

John Oliver Hodges lives in New Jersey. His fiction has appeared recently in The Texas Review and storySouth. He is the author of The Love Box (a collection of short stories and photographs), and Quizzleboon, a soon-to-be-released novel from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing.