The Black Tattoo
She took a drag on her cigarette and blew out the smoke slowly, thoughtfully.
“Don’t worry about it.”
“You can’t just say that.”
“I can say anything I want. I don’t see what it matters.” Another slow drag. He knocked the cigarette from her hand.
He didn’t even know why he bothered putting up with her bullshit most of the time. There seemed to be no point to it when they weren’t banging.
“You can leave any time you want,” she said, seeming to read his thoughts.
“I know I can.” He couldn’t even admit to himself the possibility that he might have caught feelings for her. There was nothing worth it from her. She was just a normal girl. She has dull blonde hair. Large bags under her heavily lidded eyes. The typical stoner look about her. But there was something about her that intrigued him. And no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t shake this feeling that there might be something special about her that he couldn’t quite place.
Perhaps it was the black tattoo that covered the left side of her chest, only visible when she wore those low cut shirts. It was difficult to describe, sometimes it looked like a flower, or a whole tree full of flowers, and other times it reminded him of the crosshatching of scars and stitches. And no matter how many times he asked, she refused to tell him what it meant.
“I’ll tell you when you’re ready for it,” she would say.
But no matter how long he stuck around, she refused to tell him. Despite his pleadings, she would not budge. This both frustrated him, and yet was the reason he stayed. There was something special about this, something he couldn’t quite place his finger on. And so he stayed.
“Well aren’t you the hero.” She sat up and crossed her arms over her chest. The two of them sat in the basement glaring at each other from the couches that faced opposite of each other.
“Well if I weren’t here, you probably wouldn’t be either.”
“I hate you,” she spat. “I don’t deserve this bullshit. You’re such a piece of shit.”
He stood up and crossed the room, stretching his hands to grasp them around her neck. “I don’t deserve this either, bitch. The world isn’t all about you.”
He sat on top of her, holding her down by her shoulders now. She stared up at him with her green eyes that lacked a certain something. The worn out black makeup around her eyes gave accentuated that crazy stoner look, but also had a certain sense of allure to him. It matched the black of her tattoo, barely visible through her lace shirt. Today it reminded him of a weeping willow, but raised at the edges, as if the ink were brand new.
“You know you can leave?” she asked. “You don’t have to feel guilty for me.”
“I don’t. I don’t know why I’m here, but I’m here. That should mean something.”
He didn’t respond. Simply stared at the tattoo through her black lace shirt. He moved his hands from her shoulders to the bottom of the shirt, and began to drag it up, pulling it up so he could get a full view of the tattoo, and let the shirt lay on her face, covering her cryptic gaze. A weeping willow would be the only way to describe it, wide and hovering. More than that, it seemed as if tattoo itself were actually weeping. Tears streaming out in the way of black ink. He felt his own eyes get moist as he traced the lines of the tattoo, over her heart and towards her breasts, disappearing into another world, entirely. He wiped away the moisture, pulled down her shirt to look her in the eye, and viciously took hold of her lips with his own.
And this is how it goes.
“How long have you had it?”
“As long as I can remember.”
“How long is that.”
“I don’t remember.”
“Put down the cigarette.”
“It’s going to kill you.”
“Maybe I’m already dead.”
Moments like this frustrated him to no end. He squeezed on her hand, the one that wasn’t slowly killing herself. He wished that she could feel his frustration and his passion through that squeeze. Maybe she did. And maybe she just didn’t care.
“Besides,” she said, finishing it and stomping it out on the curb in front of the movie theatre they were about to enter, “I don’t see why you care.”
“Because I do. Because I care about you.”
“I still don’t see why.”
Today the tattoo was a collage of faces, all sewn together, all laughing or angry. Abstract eyes stared at him, pierced his gaze. To make matters worse, the tattoo had angry red marks surrounding it, making it raise her skin, making it look as if it might break open at any moment. He was scared for her. Scared for what this thing was doing to her.
He looked into her green eyes, wide open. The make up surrounding them was spotty, as if it had not been done in several days. She looked as if she had lost a bit of weight, and it make the dark spots beneath her eyes just a little bit more prominent. The closer he seemed to get, the worse she seemed to get.
No longer did he wonder why he bothered with her when they weren’t having sex. No, rather, he felt a certain duty to her. As if he had to protect her from something, save her from something. Perhaps the morphing black tattoo she could not explain. Perhaps from herself. He worried about her thin frame when they were around each other.
He never imagined he would feel this much duty towards a person.
From time to time, he still felt old pieces of himself. But they were foreign to him. Whenever he would go out with friends to smoke pot or to get drunk, he felt himself constantly missing her. It was a weird feeling to have, to feel as if he were missing a part of himself. And he didn’t know if he liked it or not.
“You need to get it looked at. I’m worried about it. About you.”
Today the tattoo was smaller, a long line of stitches covering the space over her heart. It was raised off of the skin, oozing, and festering.
He had to tell her.
He had been denying the feeling to himself for so long. All these long years, watching the tattoo morph, he had denied himself.
“Do you want to know what it means?” she asked. He nodded. “Then say it.”
“I’m in love with you.”
Slowly, a tear falling down from her cheek, she took his hand in hers and placed it over the tattoo, over the stitches, over her heart.
Where he should have felt a steady thump, there was nothing.
She was empty.