The tattoo


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The first one is the hardest, the one you agonize about the most.
Past the shop, look in the window, up the road, not today. Tomorrow. Yeah. tomorrow.
I must have done it, that stupid journey, on 3, 4 saturdays and then, on a Tuesday, I went in & had it done.

And its funny, you can hardly see it now, my little butterfly, sort of lost now in everything else thats going on up there.
I’m aiming for the whole arm, hand, shoulder, a sleeve.

I like that word, makes me think that i can dress myself in ink, drape my body in tattoos.
I’m wearing ART – lol

Ive got a plan, not just random stuff, I’m making a jungle, all the colors glowing and parotts and monkeys and everything, even my little buterfly, all warm and bright, like my mum says – its a cold old world and you need something to keep you warm, she gets her glow from spray tan and acrylic nails, but me, Ive got my jungle.

Sometimes, I sit in my room and i light a couple of candles and i really look at myself, the piercings and that, they’re nothing, just fashion. The ears, did those to annoy my dad, he hates them, says it makes me look mad, ,like some mutant or something.
But the art, it’ll be there forever, even when I’m proper old, like really, really old, old like my gran, I’ll still have it, the jungle, my little butterfly.
Makes me feel kinda of nice that, it’ll be mad, all these old people, all covered in ink..LMFAO

I like it when people look at me, smile my biggest, nicest smile, put on my poshest voice and always say hello to them. I like it best when they ask questions, come closer to have a good look, but what I hate is the sneaky peekers, too polite or something, whatever, to just smile and enjoy, no, they look out the corner of their eyes, faces all screwed up in judgement, just like that guy now, pretending to read his paper, but everytime he thinks I’m looking away, his head pops up, like something out of bloody Meercat Manor

I don’t think she’s noticed me, too wrapped up in herself, tapping away at that phone. Funny how young people are always tapping and poking and prodding things, don’t seem to be able to sit still, enjoy their coffee, have a quiet chat, watch the world go by, always seem too busy.
Now don’t get me wrong, me and Marion we liked to move with the times, when mobile phones got a bit cheaper, we had a bit of a confab and decided to get one, but we both knew, it was FOR EMERGENCIES ONLY. Marion learnt to text, the grandsons taught her, but I never really fancied it – too fiddly, easier to just speak to someone and now, well, like I said, its for emergencies really.

The girl, well, you cant help but look, everything about her says look at me, so I do.
Bits of metal all over her face, ear lobes distended, mis-shaped with huge black things, earrings maybe.
I remember when our Paul had his ear pierced, 1976, he was just 16, saw something on Look East about punks and next thing, he comes home with a little stud in his ear. Marion went mad, expected me to lay down the law, but I looked at his face, screwed up with defiance, a good boy really and I just shrugged, went into the garden, looked at the lawn, burnt to a crisp in the drought.
It’s her tattoos that are really catching my eyes, her whole arm is covered, leaves and flowers, but that’s not what’s puzzling me.
The thing I’m looking at is small, my age, close up stuff, well that can be a bit of a blur, but far away things, eagle eyed, that’s me, so I can see the tattoo on her hand and it’s not like the others. It’s just one word, a name maybe, but it’s impossible to read and it’s got me wondering. Marion always said that i was nosey, personally, I’m just interested in people, well, that’s how i see it.
So, this, well, it’s odd. This is a girl who wants to be noticed, but why have a name that no-one can read.

When I took the drawing to Tom, the guy who’s done most of the inking on me, well, he just didn’t get it, scratched his head, got a pen and re-drew the letters, each one perfect, perfectly readable, even drew some nice shading, looked at me, but I shook my head and insisted that he followed my design.
Afterwards, he joked, said that i shouldn’t tell anyone that he had done the work, said that he didn’t want anyone thinking he couldn’t write properly.
I looked down at where the new piece was hidden under gauze and tape and said his secret was safe with me, but I knew he didn’t understand.
Once, when my mum was out and it was raining, me and my dad were watching some old detective thing on telly, Sherlock Holmes, I think, and he was talking about how to hide things and he said
“hidden in plain sight” and my dad, who loved that sort of telly nodded and told me what it meant – hide something where everyone can see it and that’s what I’ve done.
Anyone can see it, it’s there, black ink on my skin, hidden in plain sight.

Her phone pings or clicks or something and she picks it up, I can see her hand clearly now, against the black of the tiny phone, but the letters are illegible, a scribble. I can make out a couple of letters, just enough to annoy me.
And then she is gone, a clatter of jewellery and over- sized bags and I’m left wondering.
I take another sip of coffee and finish reading the paper. I’m not in a hurry, nothing much to hurry for these days.
Just for a second, i wonder what Marion would have said if I’d told her that I was going to her name tattooed somewhere on my body.

About cathi rae

50ish teacher & aspiring writer and parent of a stroppy teenager and carer for a confused bedlington terrier and a small selection of horses who fail to shar emy dressage ambitions. Interested in contemporary fiction but find myself returning to PG Wodehouse when the chips are down View all posts by cathi rae

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