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A World of Tattoos
I sat cross-legged on the small, scratchy rug, gazing blankly at the cream-colored wall that stood only inches from the curve of my nose. The air surrounding me was vibrating with each bang delivered to the locked door of my tiny Vegas apartment, and I could make out the sound of shouting just beyond the wooden barrier. The only things I could not understand were the words actually being thrusted through the atmosphere; they all sounded like gray static in my hazy mindset. My face and shoulders were slack with exhaustion, and the edges of my vision were fuzzy. But I wouldn’t stop staring at the two tattoos on my leg.
“Adrian! Adrian, please, listen to me!” Colette yelled through the doorway.
But I couldn’t. I could only bask in my thoughts and memories, sorting through them and frowning at all the “I love you” moments, as if I were going through an old waste basket.
Why? I kept repeating to myself. Why would you do this to me?
The skin on my leg was raw and burning, and a wet rag dipped in every cleaning liquid I knew lay beside me. I couldn’t scrub the tattoo off.
Finally, I spoke. “Colette, stop banging on the door… Just go.”
“I need to explain! It wasn’t what you think it was!” she responded, a little shocked that I actually replied to her frantic yelling. I pushed myself up with as much feeble strength as I could and trudged over to open the door, facing my panicking ex-girlfriend.
“You cheated, Colette. You broke everything we worked to build. I loved you, and you cheated.”
Her face was pleading, with brown eyes wide and messy blonde curls tumbling around her features. “Please,” she mumbled, “give me another chance. A new beginning. At least let me explain!”
I laughed harshly, anger lacing itself into my tone. “Oh, grow up! New beginnings don’t exist. Never have, and never will. So how about you leave? Just… get out of here.” I scowled and turned away from her as she was still begging, shutting the door behind me and letting the lonely emptiness crawl over the small living space. I was all by myself now, and I still had her tattoo.
Everyone in this world had a tattoo of their own- a small, meaningful little shape or pattern on their ankle that marked them as an individual. Nobody knew where they came from, some even said we were born with them. Either way, no two people had the same tattoo, and whenever you fell in love, that person’s tattoo appeared somewhere on your body. I’d seen people on the streets covered in tattoos from falling in love easily. Others were just a simple, blank slate apart from their own anklet tattoo. When I used to volunteer at nursing homes, the old men and women would sit down with me and tell me the stories behind each tattoo on their body. Some ended beautifully, some were so tragic that they brought tears to my eyes. But I guess that was life for you.
I slumped back over to my ruffled spot on the carpet and picked back up the wet rag. Staring at it, I realized that it was no use. The markings would never disappear. They would stick there, forever, taunting me for being such a stupid woman and falling in love with someone like Colette. I wondered if my tattoo, a small hummingbird looped around the sign of infinity, was even a part of her. Did she ever love me in the first place? Was I just crazy?
It was too late to find out now…
Nearly two months later, I was standing straight in front of my full-length mirror, eyebrows crinkled as my phone screen lit up with blinding light. I was finally deleting Colette’s contact. Of course, I never answered her calls and texts, begging me to do this and that and blah blah blah, but I just hadn’t exactly gotten around to deleting her entirely. To be honest, after the first miserable month, I simply blocked her. The last thing I needed was yet another daily reminder of what she did to me, what she did to us.
Putting my phone down, I looked over at the mirror once again, twisting my body I every direction to get a clear shot of myself. I was only going out to a coffee shop and grabbing something quick to eat, but this was the first time I’d put an effort into my appearance and gone out with my head high in a while. The outfit was simple- maroon tee, black jean shorts, a pair of ratty converse, and a black fedora over my pixie-cut raven curls. But to put those items of clothing on and actually look at myself as a complete person… the feeling was magical.
Once I had headed out in a taxi and hopped off onto the cracked parking lot of the local coffee shop, my confidence was waning. What if I saw somebody I knew there?
Relax, Adrian. There’s a ton of places like this around Vegas.
But what if Colette’s there and she recognizes me?
There’s like a one in a million chance of that. You’re fine.
But what if-
OTHER ADRIAN, SHUT UP AND GET THE DANG COFFEE. JESUS ON A CRACKER.
I sighed, knowing inside me was right. So I simply marched through the doors, inhaled the scent of fresh coffee and baking scones, and plopped myself into a wooden chair, pushing up my glasses as well. The line was too long to slip into at the moment, so I looked around the coffee house, my eyes soon landing on the face of a pale, freckly, blue-eyed girl.
Oh, wow, she’s pretty, I thought, then mentally slapped myself.
She was looking down at her phone, fingers dancing around the screen as her eyes lit up with concentration. A single bright purple streak shouted out against the calm, straight, caramel locks that flowed down into her face in a blunt, side-swept bob. Her all-around look was simple, but it was effortlessly beautiful, as if she didn’t really care about people’s opinions unless it was her own.
And when she looked up and smiled at me, I went completely, totally red.
I hadn’t realized how long I’d been staring at her. Apparently, she had. Without thinking about it, I glanced at her bare ankle, searching for a tattoo. When I saw it, I smiled at her too. It was a solid exclamation mark, clean and straightforward, with the period at the bottom in the shape of a heart. In a strange way, it kind of suited her. Or, at least, what I had made of her based on an entire sixty seconds of full-on staring.
She smiled at me again, this time using her hands to motion me over to her table, as if she actually wanted to talk to me. My brow crinkled and my eyes went wide, finger going to my chest as if to say “me?” silently across the room. She only nodded and mouthed what I could hope was supposed to be an “obviously!”
Once I actually got my senses together and headed over to her identical table across the coffee house, the conversation started immediately.
“Hi! I’m Hazel. I saw you when you came into the shop, but I didn’t really have the guts to talk to you until you started staring at me. What’s your name?” she asked.
“Huh… Hazel. That’s actually really nice. Oh, and um, I’m Adrian. Adrian Lawliet.”
“Well, Adrian Lawliet, it’s nice to meet you.”
Hazel laughed, loud and clear, like a joyful firecracker going off at midnight in a silent field. Once one sentence was put out in the open, it was like pushing over a stack of dominos. We talked and talked, for hours on end, sipping coffees that a sweet old man had tipped our way with a “nobody ever actually sits down and socializes like this anymore, thank you, ladies,” and laughing every so often. Once one topic faded out, another one would pop in its place, going from pet tigers to favorite movies to family traditions in the span of a few hours.
Hazel told me that she had never met another girl who had as many Fall Out Boy albums as her, and I told her that I had never met another girl that would rather spend a vacation week under the bed covers watching an all-new series on Netflix than on the beach with sand forever stuck in my swimsuit bottoms. The sun rose high above the cloudless sky outside and set on the horizon before we had finished talking, and by the time the shop began to clear out and go into its nightly closing procedures, Hazel and I had already exchanged numbers, put in contact pictures, and started texting each other as we trailed off to our separate destinations.
Once again inside my cluttered flat, I immediately tore off my sweaty fedora and flung it across the room, smacking it against the wall with a muffled flomp! Ugh. I was too tired to pick it up now. I flopped onto my bed like a dead body, sighing blissfully into the sheets.
You know, you should probably change before you sleep.
No. Too tired.
Come on, you know you have to. That’s how this works. I’m
Grumbling, I tore myself from the heavenly mattress and rolled onto the floor with an equally dramatic eye-roll before picking up a random too-big tee, sniffing it, and tearing off my own uncomfortable clothes. I trudged over to the mirror.
What I saw next might as well have given me about fourteen heart attacks, I jumped up so quickly.
There, dead center of my pale left hip, was another tattoo.
The pattern? A solid exclamation mark, clean and straightforward, with the period at the bottom in the shape of a heart.
A deadweight of flowing memories and emotions hit me like an all-powerful tidal wave to the face- the feeling of joy and hope when I saw Colette’s tattoo on my leg all that time ago, the unbreakable smile on my face as I called her to get over to my apartment as quickly as she could, the sound of joyful giggles and squeals as her eyes made contact with the engraved pattern...
But as quickly as the feelings had hit me, I shoved them aside with a look of triumph to my own reflection. That was then, and this was now. The present only existed once, and to be honest, I wasn’t completely horrified with this present myself.
I glanced back at the new marking on my body and smiled a genuine smile, tracing my thumb over it lightly.
Maybe new beginnings did exist after all…