7 months BCW (Before Clipped Wings)
I braced myself before I walked into Inked Armor. It didn’t help. Nothing could adequately prepare me for what Lisa, our shop piercer and bookkeeper, had done to the place. It looked like Cupid puked his guts out all over the shop. Red and pink streamers were strung haphazardly over everything. 3-D red hearts dangled from the ceiling. Hearts and skulls had been taped to the walls. The skulls were for my benefit. Silk rose petals littered the glass-topped cash desk. More were scattered within the transparent case, highlighting Valentine’s inspired jewelry; heart-shaped belly rings, industrial bars and nipple shields.
I had nothing but disdain for Valentine’s Day. It was just another commercialized fake-ass holiday capitalizing on the predictability of suggestive marketing. As if one day of professed undying love with frivolous, expensive jewelry would make up for all the stupid shit people did the other three-hundred-and-sixty-four days of the year.
Lisa came out of the back room carrying a box. “Hayden! I didn’t think you’d be in this early.”
“I figured it’d be a busy day,” I said while glaring at the streamers decorating my work station.
“Mm. Usually is.” Lisa avoided eye contact, likely because she knew I was pissed. Twenty-four hours of constant reminders that I was alone could do that.
I checked the schedule. Valentine’s Day was usually filled with walk-ins, but I had one appointment booked in the afternoon that would eat up a few hours. Jamie, one of the other tattooists in the shop and Lisa’s long-time boyfriend, was blocked off from six-thirty onward.
“Jamie taking you out tonight?”
“Nothing crazy. Just dinner plans, or so he tells me.”
Lisa set the box on her chair and withdrew a stack of heart shaped bowls. She proceeded to fill them with Valentine’s inspired treats; tiny cinnamon hearts, red foil covered chocolate hearts, gummie hearts. Hearts, hearts and more fucking hearts.
I left her to the festive business and went to my station. The walk-ins began filtering in shortly thereafter. People made more permanent bad decisions on February 14th than any other day of the year. Even post New Year’s tattoos didn’t hold a candle to the plethora of cringe-worthy crap I inked on people during this one-day-a-year love-in extravaganza.
If it wasn’t a name I was putting on skin, it was a dainty heart placed on a hip, or the inside of a thigh, or the swell of a breast. Those ones were done in the private tattoo rooms while their partner’s made fuck-me eyes at them. It was nauseating at best.
I was all hopped up on sugary treats by the time my scheduled appointment showed up. The sun fell below the horizon and the shop emptied of clients, as I shaded the extensive calf piece. When I finally finished, Lisa and Jamie had already left for their dinner date.
A few minutes after I cashed out my client Chris, the other tattooist in the shop, came out of the back room with his jacket on, grinning.
“Where are you off to all smiley and shit?”
“I’ve got plans.” He winked. “See ya on the flip side, H.”
And then he was out the door. Even Chris had managed to find someone to spend the night with. And here I was. Alone. As usual. Most of the time I liked it that way. But today it made me want something different.
Something to fill the empty space in my chest. Or someone.
Thanks so much Helena!!!