The Tattie

By , Manassas, VA

I see the world differently than others. I feel like everything has a supernatural meaning; not religious, but supernatural. Growing up, I believed there was someone beyond the human-able power that could save me. I can’t say I do now, mostly because I saved my own day. For moments I’d wonder why I was always thinking that someone other than me could fix my problems; I was way too dependent on others.

 

As a Black person in society, you have so much to go through; you have the neglect and the exploitation, but I take it as the villains need to drain our powers, for they believe it’s valuable. I was in my own fantasy; I still am and always will be, but I often question if that’s good for me.

 

In the morning it was a continuous routine: get up at 6:30 a.m., get in the tub at 7:00, watch JoJo Circus, get dressed as Mickey Mouse Clubhouse comes on, and head out the door with my dad. My dad always told me about using my powers, he wanted to stay underground because some people just didn’t like people like us; we’re called Tatties. Tatties are from the word tattooed; we have a “birthmark” of when were born under the moon. I have a crab. We possess strange abilities that make Regulars envy us; often I wonder whether it’s envy or fear. Kids would tease me about having weird hair and eye color. It didn’t make me cry though, I just felt out of place. I’d walk about wearing my pink flip-flops and pink summer dress. My mom always rebuffed but I found myself fighting with her using telekinesis all the time; I’d win.


Second grade was harsh though. I was moving from my hometown to a foreign place. A place where people definitely didn’t accept tatties.


“Hey Maamaw,” I’d call her. “I don’t think I want to wear pink anymore.”
“Why is that, sweetheart?”


“They don’t respect me here,” I cried to her. “They hate my pink dress; my flip flops only give them an excuse to step on my toes.”


After a few calls to the school, the bullying at this new school stopped. My grandmother would tell me to embrace who I am when I came home with my oldest sister. However, now we weren’t allowed to practice our powers. I wondered why she’d get extremely serious if she saw our “birthmark” peeking through our pajamas or if she caught us practicing our powers amongst one another. The windows were closed, therefore, no one could see. I don’t think that mattered to her though.


After our Easter break, she began putting a little makeup on the spot where my crab would be; eventually, the makeup went everywhere. I complained to her each night about how I looked like a mannequin, but she’d just fall back to sleep.
Now I know why.


After I finished second grade with my grandmother, I ended up having to go back and live with my parents. My mom tried her best to scrub off all the makeup my grandmother put on me; it took nearly two months for everything to be completely gone. I’d look in the mirror every day and realize the contrast in skin tone. It became harder and harder to look at my reflection as I got older because I knew that with my reflection, came the crab’s reflection also. You’re a tattie, I’d think, you don’t belong here.


I definitely didn’t belong. I went from wearing pink flip-flops with my pink floral summer dress to yellow formal shirts and greenish-blue skirts. I was back among other tatties, but I still felt out of place. I saw my best friend and somehow she recognized me. Didn’t I look different? I thought, how can she want to be around me when I haven’t even covered up my crab? Is she really having a conversation about homework with me? How can she even carry on a conversation with a Tattie?


It took me a while to realize that she didn’t care about the crab on my shoulder and how it glows every time I was sad or upset, but I recognized she was always there when I was. Sometimes it’d be before I’d cry, but as soon as she showed up, everything seemed serene. I was too young to understand what she meant by everything was going to be okay. I didn’t know, nor did I comprehend what “everything” was. But I’d learn that the scorpion on her shoulder makes us alike; I could trust her.


By third grade, at my house, we weren’t allowed to practice Tattie instrumentals.


“No water Moocheeks,” my Mom called me by my nickname. “I don’t want you nor your sister whisking up anything—that means no air either!”


My mom banned us from using our powers because she wanted the traditional things: food be done at 9 p.m., homework done five minutes before dinner, showers ten minutes after we’re done eating, eat for fifteen minutes and bedtime until 8:15 a.m. I envied this process. It felt so scripted; somehow I played a role. I saw this process a billion times on TV.


Most of the TV shows featured the Regulars’ lifestyle. The mom would have a complete chronological schedule for her casual 4-person household. Once the children were gone to school, she and the lovely husband would be left with no worries.


My mom wanted that lifestyle.


My mom and my dad are still together. In the Tattie community, there were rarely people that stayed together as long as my parents were. We’d walk into a restaurant and my mom’s face would light up every time she got the chance to call my dad her “husband”. She loved throwing that word around without the ring.


“Mom,” I summoned her. “Why do you call daddy your husband without the wedding ring?” I’d constantly ask her.


“Because sweetheart,” she’d begun. “I’ve known him longer than most people claim to; I don’t need a rock to let me know that he’s always going to be mine.”


I’d purposely ask her that. I loved hearing her answer; it was music to my ears. When it came down to the love of a Tattie to another Tattie, the love often was too powerful. It would envy other Tatties or bring jealous upon Regulars. I’d conclude that Tatties just wasn't meant to love; it’s just my parent’s found it.


Within elementary, I would get taught this word “embrace”. There was whole two months-worth of teaching on this word. This is where my mom and dad became enemies. I always got disciplined by my mother. My father would teach me about embracing who I am and respecting my maiden name, yet my mom told me to never embrace what people hated. She called it playing it safe. I ended playing it safe throughout the rest of fourth grade because in fourth-grade people were forgetting about Tatties. They never went over the history of the Tatties or why they even refer to us as tatties, but that went in correlation with when my mom told me to cover up m crab.


I didn’t know that covering up my crab or holding in my crab’s desire to be free would affect me. Something always told me that my mother knew, however. She’d ask me was it glowing or whether it began to hurt. One day the pain began to appear consistently. I’d continue the routine like nothing was happening because I was determined to find out myself. I walked into the kitchen after my mom called my sisters and me to dinner. The crab was giving me a sharp, stabbing pain in my back.


I thought I played the pain off well. Neither did I grimace nor shake as I was making my plate, but my mother broke the silence by saying:


“Have you been icing your crab?”


I looked at her halfway shocked but more of a fake-confused look.


“Your back must be in extreme pain,” she said as she helped make plates, showing off her multitasking skills as she moved swiftly. “When were you going to tell me?


I shrugged.


“I don’t read gestures,” she lectured. “When…were…you…going…to…tell…me?”


Part of me wanted to mumble, but I knew the consequences of those actions.


“I don’t know it just started,” I began at a medium, presentable voice level.  “But I think it’ll clear up with a tyln—.”


Just as I was about to feel cool about actually pronouncing this word right my mom looked at me. Almost as if she wanted to grab my soul. She didn’t want my sisters and I taking medicine to suppress any type of Tattie hardship; it was a Regulars creation. What go could it do us?


I finished elementary “playing it safe”, but now I was a sixth grader and I was around people who were both older yet younger. In the neighborhood I lived in, there was two school that kids talked about going to after elementary: the school strictly for Tatties and the school that hid Tatties with the Regulars. All my friend were going to the Regular school; their parents didn’t want their children getting hurt at the Tattie School.
My parents never asked me what I wanted, but my dad said that going to the Tatties School would make me stronger and help me realize stereotypical normality; what they exactly expected from a community of Tatties together: violence, hatred, and destruction. My dad’s answer was always survival. It was his more coal, something he forced my sister and me to live by. I never saw my dad’s tattoo because he says that it’s not important. He urged that you’d look at him and treat him how you’d treat others. Sometimes I thought my dad hated being a Tattie because he just sit in the mirror and look at himself I like did; as if it was hard to see the reflection bouncing off the mirror. However, my dad wasn’t me, he was stronger.


I thought going to this school would make me as stronger as my dad. I thought that I’d find people that related to me. I thought that maybe they would have a crab on their back like I did; feel the stinging pain as I did. I thought I wouldn’t have to fight with people whose parents were Tatties. I thought that I wouldn’t have to violently touch another Tattie I thought that I was going to finish middle school at this Tattie school successfully. I was wrong.


In Seventh grade, I was transferred to the Regulars School. My dad said he put me in that Tattie School to one my eyes, yet I thought that as I woke up every morning and put on that burgundy shirt with the tan pants; I was “woke”. At this point, I only realized that as he said eyes, he meant brain. He was to teach me something that required full attention. Up until the end of middle school, I never understood what education meant to a Tattie.


I never knew that the mini-lessons with my parents were just labeled as informal training that one receives in their everyday life. I never understood that education’s significance to a Tattie if they didn't teach us the full story. Something told me, however, that high school was going to answer all my questions.

 


Starting high school was a rude awakening, events began happening, whereas the Tatties were starting to diminish at the hands of Regulars; history seemed to repeat itself. They’d talk about Tatties’ lives being ended by these Regulars who Tatties trusted in. I’d walk in the house every day after-school and look straight at my dad. I wanted to avoid conversation with him because I knew he’d say the same thing as he did the past week:
“This is what I tell you to look out for,” he’d say. “People like those Regulars. They want us to believe that they’ve changed, yet the ended the life of another tattie.”


“What did he do now?” I’d ask.


“They said that the tattie was trying to resist and burned one of the officers.”


“It was a sea-goat?”


“No, a lion.”


Each time it was a new Tattie; a new birthmark. Each conversation became more aggressive with my dad, while each tardy to school became a longer and meaningful lecture from my dad. I wanted to explain to him why I didn’t want to attend the Regular school anymore. I wanted to explain to him that more Regulars were arriving at the Tattie community; gentrification was happening and it was faster than the Tattie community thought.


But we moved and now that notification would stay with that place.

 

I transferred from my town of Tatties and immediately saw a difference. In a town that had a lot of Regulars, I was very uncomfortable. I could handle it and quite frankly I rebuffed on a grand scale. I felt like it stopped me from wanting to go to school. Just suck it up, I thought, it’s just a regular. Just a regular.


I saw about five tatties in this school, but something about them was different. I realized that their birthmark looked as if it were fading. I used to think that the lack of Tatties at this school was the reason why they’d never talk about the Tattie history. I’d have a conversation with my mom about it almost every time, but it’d be a whisper. She became just as paranoid as I was.


I wanted to leave so eagerly. I couldn’t fathom being there. Ugh, a Regular’s area code, I thought, the shape of the number the particular sequence of those 3 numbers. I knew that it wasn’t that intricate, but going to that school made me think that way. My father couldn’t deny that out there, I was accessing part of my brain that I wasn’t able to access at first. I was now able to control my crab. I now had the power to turn my water into fire.


My mom would come in my room and tell me to cut it out, but I couldn’t, I was astonished by every second I held the blue flame in my hand. I would just sit in my room and let my crab glow as I created fireballs in my hand. Was I really this powerful?


This is a Regular’s town, how come it teaches me more about being a Tattie without actually teaching me how to be a Tattie? How is it possible that there is no more stinging sensation? How come my envy for the Regulars have depleted?


I’m in eleventh grade and still can’t answer why in the town of Regulars: I’m so powerful. Why am I just as useful in a Regular’s town than a Tattie’s.






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