"Hearts will never be practical until they are made unbreakable."
The Wizard of Oz
They were walking down the street when he ventured, “Does it hurt to get a tattoo?”
Smiling slightly she answered, “A little, it’s like a scratching, bee sting type of pain. Why do you ask?”
Waiting for the light to change, he tried to be casual in his reply. “Oh, I don’t know, I was thinking maybe I’d get one.”
He glanced over to see her reaction. She regarded him curiously.
“You don’t seem the type. You really have to be committed to get one.”
He felt somewhat diminished by her answer.
“What would you get?” she asked.
He pondered the question.
“I was thinking of a broken heart, on my arm, with her name on it.”
She flinched a little; dating a man with a dead wife was like being in a macabre ménage a trois, without any pleasure for her.
“I’m not a big fan of putting other people’s names on my body. It’s usually bad luck; I mean what happens when you break up?”
“You can’t break up with a dead woman,” he said softly.
They walked in silence until they reached her apartment.
“If you’re really serious, I know a place. I’ll go with you if you’d like” she offered. His body relaxed and he smiled.
“I’d like that. Maybe we can get the same thing.”
As she said good night all she could think was, I’ll be damned if I’ll have another woman’s name on my body.
He picked her up on Saturday and they drove to the shop. The day was hot and humid, the air thick and still. He was nervous, but didn’t want to back out now. Still he was worried, what if it hurts a lot, what if I faint? They walked into the shop where several heads were bent over various limbs and torsos. One man looked up, smiled at her in recognition and called out.
“It will be a few. Look through the books and see what you like.”
She handed him a large binder with drawings; tigers, hearts, angels, daggers, every shape, size and color. He flipped through the pages, looking at the multitude of designs. The room was warm, despite the air conditioner. He looked over towards the other room, listening to the low buzz of the tattoo machine. He let his fingers drum across the top of the book. She placed her hand gently over his.
“If you’re not sure, you don’t have to do this. Not everyone’s cut out for a tattoo. It doesn’t matter to me.”
He squeezed her hand back, and thought maybe he’d rethink this, when someone called his name.
“Did you find something?”
He cleared his throat and pointed to a picture of a large heart, broken in two down the middle.
“This one. I want to put someone’s initials on it.” He followed the artist back into the room and sat down.
“Where do you want it?”
“Here,” he said, pointing to his left bicep.
“Ok,” the artist said, “Take off your shirt while I make the stencil.”
He sat in the chair,his bicep exposed and tried to relax as the artist applied the stencil.
“Try to stay as still as possible, and make sure you keep breathing.”
Taking a deep breath he exhaled as the man began to draw the outline of the heart. He flinched a little, but as the pain became regular he began to relax, only occasionally tensing up. He sat like that for over an hour. Sweat was starting to bead on his forehead.
“Take a look.”
He walked over to the mirror and saw the broken, bleeding heart etched forever on his arm. He smiled at his reflection.
“I like it” he said, holding out his hand.
He went to grab his shirt and started to walk out of the room when he suddenly felt light headed. Next thing he knew he was on the floor looking up; she had a cold clothe and was wiping his brow.
“Are you ok?”
He felt like an idiot and tried to sit up.
“Hold on, not so fast. Just rest a little longer.”
He stayed on his back a few more minutes then tentatively sat up.
“I’m ok,” he said, smiling meekly. “The heat got to me, that’s all.”
She helped him up, and the two of them slowly walked out of the shop.
“Do you want to get some ice cream?”
He felt the last shred of his masculinity melt away.
The next morning he was still in bed, his arm throbbing slightly, when his daughter snuck into his room.
“Dad,” she whispered, “Who’s in the bathroom?”
He didn’t bother to open his eyes.
"A friend,” he mumbled, “Why don’t you go play in your room for a while and let Daddy sleep some more?”
She stayed next to his bed, suddenly gasping.
“What’s that on your arm?”
He tried to sink under the covers, pulling the pillow over his head. He felt her jump on the bed and grab his arm. He opened his eyes and found her perched over him, staring intently at the new piece of artwork. She gently let her index finger trace the outline of the heart.
“Mommy,” he answered.
She pondered this information.
They both looked towards the bathroom as the door opened.
“Oh” was all she said. They both waited for her to appear in the doorway, and when she did, she smiled shyly and said “Morning, glories.”
His daughter got off the bed.
“I’m going back to my room now.”
They heard the door close behind her. He pulled the pillow back over his face as she sat on the bed next to him.
"What did she think?”
“About what? The tattoo or you?”
“Either, I guess.”
He thought for a moment.
“She didn’t say anything. I guess she needs to get used to both.”
She bent over and kissed his broken heart.
“I think we’ll both be around for a while.”
©2010 VL Sheridan