NOW THAT I AM 85 (OOPS, 86) My Little Husband and the Gone Tattoo

My little husband jumps up in a fury, clutching the Times editorial page. He stamps around the breakfast nook so hard he causes our coffee cups to rattle on their saucers.

“This is a crazy person!” he hollers. He bunches up the page and hurls it into a corner. The fire in his eyes is so hot that for a minute I think maybe the Times will ignite.

“But you know there is many crazy persons,” I say. “What is causing you to be so disrupted now?”

He sits down again and glares at me. He is breathing hard.

“This person, this writer person, he says that in our brains – in everybody’s brains! — is an “End of History” thing. A delusion! He says I got a delusion in my brain!”

“Which delusion….?” I begin, but he interrupts.

“He says we KNOW we changed in the past, but we do not believe we are going to change in the future time!”

“So?” I say. “You got a problem with that?”

“He says we THINK that the way we are now is the way we always will be!” He is turning purple in the face. “I do not think that!!! Why does he say I think that?”

I sigh. Many times in life, my little husband gives me proof that even with the benefit of a highest education, you could be sometimes not so smart.

“He is not talking about you only! He is probably somebody who wants his doctor degree, so he is talking about the sample people. He is not talking about you! Why are you getting so crazy?”

“I do NOT have such a delusion!” he rages. “I know I am going to change! I like to change! I change always! In the now, in the future! I can change whenever I want!”

I am totally flummoxed by this outburst.

I say, as quiet as I can, “I know very well that what you say is true. Always you are saying that to change is good. This I find admirable.”

I feel sorry that he is so beside himself. It makes me want to pet him, but any time if I try to pet him he gets very mad, so I don’t. “What is the matter? Please tell me!”

He looks at me with such a hurt, such a sad expression.

Suddenly he bursts out:

I cannot believe he has said this.

We sit.

The silence goes back so many years.

To the Korean War.

And the G.I. Bill, which kindly let him go to college, so he could learn, and so I could meet him.

Our first dates was to go swimming in the lake.

At the time, he went around always with his left arm strapped to his body, even in the water, where he would do the sidestroke.

“It is from being wounded. A little,” he said.

“If it is just a little, will it not be better soon?”


He did not sound convincing, but I married him anyway.

It was only later I discovered that the strapped-down arm was hiding a tattoo of a naked woman in what you would call a compromising position. Some of the coeds he had met were upset by this, and he did not want to alarm any more of them.

I was upset by it, too, but by that time we were already married, and the tattoo was not what you would call a deal-breaker. I was upset because I could not imagine why he would have chosen to get his only tattoo in such a sensitive place as the armpit. He said it was because of his infantry buddies and the beer they all drank that day.

Not only was the naked woman good-looking in her body, but when my little husband’s armpit hair had grown out again, she had developed a lovely head of curly locks.

I didn’t like her.

Sometimes I would say “I wish you would get rid of her.”

He would always refuse. “I invested in this too much money and terrible pain from the needles, so now I have to keep her.”

But as the years went by, her beautiful curly hair got thinner, until she was almost bald. She got more and more flabby, so her whole body, once so fit, became increasingly wrinkled and old-looking, especially her bosoms.

I was glad.

Why should she be the only one still looking spiffy?

Sometimes I would say “Do you think you will ever change your mind about this?”
“NEVER!” he would say.


We go to a place in Brooklyn that says they can make her go away with a laser beam. They cannot predict how many treatments this will need: maybe ten, maybe fifteen. “You had it HOW many years?” They cannot tell us exactly how much will be the cost, but in soft voices they tell us a “range”.

We are in shock.

Outside the laser place, we stand for a while in the nice breeze.

“Sometimes I was jealous of her,” I admit. “She was with you all the time, even when I was not.”

“I never thought of it in that way,” he says. “I am sorry.”

“You don’t have to be sorry any more. It is enough, that now I know you no longer want to keep her.”

“Maybe,” he says, “she will just fade away.”


He takes my hand in his. I curl my hand around his hand, a little tighter.

We go home.