I often wonder what it feels like to be born in a dryer. Wouldn’t it be nice to tumble around in clothes warmer and softer than cotton candy then pop out smelling like citrus spice?
It sure as hell sounds a lot more comfortable and intimate than crouching in someone’s stomach fluids for eight months. But I shouldn’t complain. How many souls are lucky enough to ingest limitless portions of free nicotine and alcohol before they can even chew their fingers? I’ve been living the high life since the day I woke up in my mother’s toxic swamp. Everyone tells me it’s a miracle that I escaped her womb alive, yet twenty-two years later I’m still not sure that’s the right word. What’s so miraculous about giving a child with doomed genes the opportunity to fuck up her own life?
I’ve never met her. Or him, for that matter. But they taught me the most important lesson I’ve ever learned: humans are the most soulless machines of all.
“Are you sure about this? It’s going to hurt like hell.”
My client nods and flash me a toothy grin. I shrug and bring my machine down to her left foot. Her breath catch as the needle sinks into her porcelain skin.
“Is this your first tattoo?” I ask out of curtesy as I begin tracing the outline of a sugar skull on her ankle.
“Oh, of course not.” She pulls her shirt up and proudly shows me the watercolor hummingbird on her side rib. “I got this just a few weeks ago.”
“Why the hummingbird?”
“Because it’s everything I wish to be. You know, resilient and graceful and optimistic.” She winces when I start shading the teeth on her joint. “Can’t let pain and disappointment stop you from being you, right?”
I resist the urge to roll my eyes. Chicks like her walk into the parlor every single day, courageously battling through an eternity of pain to get some cliched symbol inked onto the most delicate parts of their bodies for the sole purpose of proving that they’re tougher than other chicks. I can just imagine the smug look on their stupid faces as they unveil my handiwork, the physical manifestation of their phony resilience. As if being continuously poked by a pin for a few hours is an inexpressibly scarring experience comparable to losing a child or being abandoned at birth by someone who’s supposed to love you unconditionally. As if pain is yet another popularity contest that this self-obsessed generation has created for itself.
They’ve never been hurt. Because people who have experienced real pain never come back for more.
You don’t choose pain; pain finds you.
There’s something so tragically beautiful about fall.
Every moment is like a Jackson Pollock masterpiece, so frenetic and transient – leaves falling to the grass like splashes of orange and red paint bleeding into the deep green backdrop. Fall is at once the climax and twilight of the year, a cacophony of colors and emotions that vanishes just when you’re about to be swept away by its beauty. Anything that dazzling is bound to burn itself out – it’s a metaphor for life, really.
I take a painfully long drag from my cig and exhale, watching the slender grey shadows melt into the baby-blue expanse above.
“Mommy, look what I made.” Skylar shouts from the playground, zealously pointing at a pile of leaves next to the swings.
I walk over to her and scrutinize the abstract forms laid out in front of me. “It’s beautiful, honey. What’s it supposed to be?”
Her little eyebrows furrowed in the adorable way that always makes my heart ache. “Can’t you tell? It’s us.” She points to the big stack of green leaves on the right. “That’s you.” Then the small orange stack in the middle. “That’s me.”
She doesn’t need to explain the yellow stack on the left.
I push a lock of red hair behind her ear and stare straight into those trusting green eyes – his eyes. “Skye, see that hummingbird up there?” I guide her index finger to the tiny creature perched on a branch next to the swing. She nods.
“That’s Daddy’s watching over us.” I touch her freckled cheek. “He’s seen your sketches.”
I don’t know if five-year-olds still believe that bullshit, but Skye grins and runs back to play with her friends. Sooner or later she’d find out, just as I did about my mother’s substance abuse while I was still in her womb. The truth always finds a way rear its ugly head.
I light another cig and fall back on the bench, watching Skye’s copper head bounce up and down the seesaw. Sooner or later she’d resent me. I’ve always known it, but what can I do? How can you tell your kid that she’s the product of a drunken mistake with a married man of three kids? How can you tell her that the only reason she even exists is that your stepparents think abortion is sinful? How can you tell her you’ve never wanted her in the first place?
I suppose it was all inevitable. Teenage delinquent parents. Orphanage. Foster homes. Drugs, alcohol, casual sex. Teenage pregnancy. High school dropout. Single mother. You couldn’t write that shit.
Fate is a tattoo on the heart.