•1|His Tattoo Shop
THE MOONLIGHT GLISTENS OFF A PUDDLE OF WATER AS DIANA HOPS OVER IT.
Silence gnaws my insides, worse than the autumnal air caresses my skin and seeps through my pores. There's nothing much to frighten me but I am frightened...and lonesome, not so much people at 10pm on cherry avenue street. Fragments of thoughts spin into my mind as my sister dances gracefully like a leaf falling from it's parent tree: a prodigal son. I try to comfort my poor soul by staying in a Christian safe zone and claiming everything alive is a sin. Not creature wise, adrenaline wise. If it makes me feel like I'm on a rooftop, it has to be a damnation but my covetousness of getting a tattoo has drawn the conclusion that I am a sinner.
“You're not a sinner. You're like a new slut in the tattoo black market,” Didi says, skipping over another puddle of water. If I have a right to draw another conclusion, then the mayor needs to fix these potholes on the street.
“That's a horrible use of simile.” I shudder. We both don't say anything, letting silence rule for a while and as we near the foot of a long walk to the tattoo parlour, splinters of words spoken by my grandmother lingers in the cold breeze. “Remember what Grandma Juliet used to say?”
“She said a lot of things. She once told me if I ever rode a boy's bicycle, I would get pregnant. She wasn't wrong, except I was eight.”
“Never mind.” I shake my head bitterly at my twin sister.
Grandmother Juliet always said, “The world is made up of two people. Those who have tattoos and those who are afraid of those who have tattoos”. She was wrong. I am going to be that person who has a tattoo and yet is afraid of them. Mostly the needles....and the blood but this tattoo shops looks professional, compared to the others we've checked out today. Some reeked of feet, alcohol and marijuana, with beer cans strewn about on the floor. This one, on the other hand looks decent with a new sign up front that reads, 'tattoo is an art'. I tiptoe to glance inside through a tainted window, I can't see much but the light purple color scheme inside is very visible.
Didi breaks me out of my mental babbling as she pushes the door of the shop with one shoulder and coils her cold fingers around my wrist as the door let's out an old, tired groan.
“Hello? Does anybody works here? Hello?” Didi yells and throws her hands up in frustration with a sigh as I access the place.
Professional? If a desk and sofa that bends back into a bed is considered professional then right on. I let out uneven breaths as my sister continues to scream for service. I wipe my sweaty palms on my shirt. I am scared and I know I shouldn't be. Bad things happen when I get emotional.
“I'm coming!” shouts a guy as he walks in through the black door opposite us, battling with his grey shirt to get it on. “Son of a bitch,” he murmurs, pulling the clothing from his face, his breathing hitches as he walks straight into his desk.
Before he finally wins the battle and gets his shirt on properly, I catch the breathtaking site of God gifted abs, rippled down into his khaki shorts and I will guess Didi did too. That would explain why her plump lips are so agape. Didi's face, with the light green eyes like okra she got from mom and the unfortunate porcelain skin inherited from dad looks paler, and with the way this guy is staring at us, I can tell he is a little taken back by our resemblance.
“So can I help you ladies or are we going to stand here and continue the staring contest?” he asks, raking his brunette hair which has gone all wild and messy from his earlier...debacle with his shirt.
“This is my sister, Genevieve but everyone calls her Gigi and I'm Diana, everyone calls me Didi, we're twins,” Didi says.
“I see that.” he nods and moves closer to us. “How may I help you?”
“Gigi is here to get a tattoo.”
“If you're underage I'm going to need a parental consent and if you're not, I need to see some ID,” he explains. My heart flutters at the sound of parental consent. That is an obstacle. An obstacle that can stop me from using my body as a billboard.
“Come on,” Didi whispers, “our parents won't allow her to get a tattoo so pretty please bend the rules just this once?”
“Do you want the tattoo, Genevieve?” he speaks my name like we did not just meet a minute ago. My mouth falls open and my brain struggles to form coherent thoughts to keep up with the conversation. If I get it, I betray God and if I don't, I betray my sister and my brothers. Let's weigh that for a second. Odds are, I will suffer so much more comeuppance from my family for my inability to live life to the fullest and God will forgive my sins if I ask. Hopefully.
“Yes,” springs from my mouth as I cave in from the artist's intense gaze. “Aren't you a little young to be a tattoo artist?” I ask.
“Ask that question when I'm done with the tattoo.”
Didi pulls a white sheet out of her pocket and says, “Here is the design. She wants it on her lower back so our parents don't see it. Way locker back if ya catch my drift.”:Didi winks and I groan. “Gigi behave and if you get scared, don't do it. Sit and wait till I get back, alright?”
“And hey, tattoo guy. You're single right?” Didi asked. “So is my sister, be nice to her.” Didi imprisons me in a hug before skipping out of the parlour.
“Take your shirt off, lie on the bed and let's get started.”
“My shirt?” I fold my arms in front of my chest. “I thought I would lift up my shirt a bit so you can do your magic and then we're done.”
“Sweetheart, don't flatter yourself. Your body means nothing to me.”
“Oh so you're an artist and a jerk.”
He forces a smile. “Nice to meet you. If you want the ink then shirt off now!”
“I'm sensing hostility right now which leads me to believe you're a heartless pervert.”
“I'm neither hostile nor heartless,” he says.
“You're going to stab me with needless.” I slowly unbutton my shirt.
My red hair hangs in curls over my shoulders. They remind me of burnt sienna and whenever Didi and I get sunburned, we look red all over, though, I don't exactly hate my ginger hair. My mother always says whenever we get angry, we are human volcanoes or a burnt orange sunset and that sounds beautiful if you ask me.
“You're asking me to stab you with my needles,” says the artist in a husky voice. “Okay, this isn't a bikini fashion show so hurry up and get on the bed.”
I huff, covering my light green brassiere with my shirt. “So you'll be gentle with me right? The thing is, I can't feel too much pain. Well I can but I shouldn't. It's not healthy.” I lie down on the sofa with my chest pressed to the cushion, giving my bare back to the handsome stranger.
“It's a sharp nibbling, shallow stabbing sensation. The pain will last for fifteen to twenty minutes. You'll live,” he explains, hiding his hands away in a pair of rubber gloves.
I let out a shaky exhale in response and nod frantically. The thing about fear is that, it's very complex and fear of the unknown can really take it's toll on you. I feel my heart pound against it's prison that is called ribcages which results in a gap between feeling woozy and faint.
“I can't get scared. I can't get scared. I can't get scared,” I chant to myself; a mantra, reminding me of all the those things that can go horribly wrong if I do let my emotions get the best of me, things like my heart.
He exhales. “Okay, no tattoo for you.” he takes off his gloves as I quickly sit up to face him. I want to show my appreciation for getting me out of my predicament but I am stopped by the need not to fan his ego. Instead, I wear my shirt. “If it scares you so much then don't do it.”
“I'm not a wuss.” I deny his thought before they form into words.
“Oh,” is what he says as he buttons up my shirt.
“It's just, I have this thing.”
I nod. “Yes, a thing. A fatal thing.”
He hums in response.
“Strong emotions can end my life. I have the takotsubo cardiomyopathy and the happy heart syndromes so emotions like fear, heart break, extreme sadness, extreme excitement—”
“I know what it is,” he hushes me, “but both syndromes? That's extremely rare to find in a person.”
And that's the half of it. I muse.
“Yeah only three people have it...well now two. One of us died in Hong Kong three months ago from watching a scary movie,” I explain. I slap his hands from my chest as he nears my cleavage. He has hands like a man, big and strong, contradicting those puffy cheeks that makes him look like he never ages. He levers his eyelids up a little to take a glance at me.
“So I take it you've never done anything fun in your life?” His brown eyes sparkle as a result of a passing car's headlights falling on them briefly.
“I have been to the library,” I say. “Okay, describe fun.”
“Heavens no. My heart will burst in my chest and drop into my stomach.” I sigh. “Please do me a favor and don't tell my sister I chickened out. I will never hear the end of it.” I slap his hands away from my chest, again. “Don't touch my bosom.” I frown.
“I'm trying to get that little white thing off your chest. I'm a little OCD,” he says, brushing his thumb on my chest.
“And besides, I'm a christian. It's a sin to get a tattoo,” I say.
He hums again. “I also have a syndrome if it makes you feel any better. Self diagnosed. I call it Paper Heart syndrome.”
“You die?” I ask.
“I feel nothing.”