Until They Get A Tattoo
Sometimes, you don’t realize the impact you have on a person until they get a tattoo. Or, in this case, until they start covering them up. When he rolled up his crisp, white sleeve one day to reveal a scattering of colorful images and words, I was surprised.
“Cool,” I said politely, though I wasn’t particularly impressed by tattoos in general. I had known him for months, but there was never an opportunity to see his sleeve of tats because of his uniform, and the mention of them never came up, either. I inched closer to get a better look, but he put his hand over one of them.
“I’ve been thinking,” he said, rubbing it as if he could erase it away. “I might get some of these covered up.”
“Why?” I said, trying to get a glimpse of it under his fingers. “What’s wrong?”
“I don’t know. I outgrew some of them. Plus…” He was quiet, and I waited. “Well, I’m embarrassed about some of them now.”
“Which ones?” I laughed, thinking the worst: a woman’s name, a skull and crossbones.
He removed his hand to reveal a rather small Playboy bunny tattoo—that iconic silhouette everyone knew. “Aw, that isn’t so bad!” I laughed.
Then he rolled his sleeve back down, ashamed. “I just don’t want you to think I’m that kind of man anymore,” he said.
Sometimes, after something terrible has happened in my life, I try to think about where I went wrong. With him, I thought it might have been when I agreed to swap phone numbers, or back even further when I said hi for the first time. But then I think about this moment. Maybe I should have been more clear, put whatever fantasy he had brewing in his head to rest—that it shouldn’t matter what I thought about him, but what he thought about himself. Instead, I was curious. I prodded, “Well, what kind of tattoo do you want?”
“I don’t know,” he said. “Maybe a star. Something beautiful that shines. What’s that song you’re always listening to?”
“’Yellow?’” I laughed.
“Yeah, that’s it,” he laughed. “Maybe that’s what I’ll do.”
A few days later, when no one was around, he rolled up his sleeve again, and there it was: sharp and gold and bright. He nudged me jokingly, but I knew what he said was true: “Now it’ll make me think of you.”