(Longlisted by Reflex Fiction Magazine)
‘Does it hurt much?’
It was like getting stung by a bee; a swarm of bees, over and over, angrily pricking at your skin, stingers darting in and out like tiny daggers until you no longer cared. Eventually you wanted the feeling to linger as you slid along the razor’s edge of sadomasochism that is getting a tattoo.
She stared with an intense mixture of loathing and curiosity at the images of patron saints that stood sentinel on my shoulder. One for myself; one for my son. A talisman intended to protect while projecting an air of spirituality intermingled with a reckless disdain for desecrating the temple that was supposed to have been my body.
‘What if it looks weird?’
Hours prior she made a spectacle of calling me ‘a thug’ for the never-before-seen ink that graced my living corpse. Racked with embarrassment and shame that she had failed me as a mother since I savagely rendered the very skin that once resided inside of her with pointless graffiti.
‘You’ll get used to it.’
Unless you live with your parents or swim together on vacation, there is little reason for them to see you nearly naked. Tattoos were hidden intimacies meant for myself and a significant other that no longer mattered and yet my mother traced an acrylic nail the color of a ripe plum along the outline of my most recent addition and sighed.
‘I don’t think I could do it; the pain would be too much.’
She didn’t grasp the irony of her own words. Having a ‘nipple’ tattooed would pale in relative comparison to the reconstruction surgery to rebuild her breasts from a double mastectomy. The tattoo would be liberating, addicting; pain would be rendered asunder.
‘If you are so concerned about the pain, why bother with the reconstructive surgery?’
Her breasts, the same ones that nursed me to life and now, even in this moment of vulnerability, I wondered if the poison that resided deep inside her trickled over my tongue and down my throat through that sacred milk.
‘Because I’m still a woman, and I’m not dead yet.’