Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Blind Tattooist: Flash Fiction submission

Another Submission, this title jumped out at me. I love tattoos. I love the idea of personalizing your body, and I find the entire process relaxing. The studio that I go to is one of the most respected in our area of north Texas, and it has some of the friendliest artists. Of course I go there so often I am greeted with "You again? Now what?"

I also work with people with disabilities, and have friends who are blind. One of which spend her last days with the limited vision she had (degenerative condition, she knew it would only get worse) pouring over her favorite artwork. I made her a 3D painting (puff paint and clay on a wooden board) based off of her description of one of them, and liked the idea of having someone do the exact opposite, describe something and allow a Blind artist to show their rendition.

She drummed her fingers against the top of the glass display case, letting her hips sway along to the smoky voice of the blues singer drifting out of the sound system. She could hear the rumble of her business partner in the back of the studio, prepping his piercing station. Tuesdays were notoriously slow.

“I still say that we shouldn’t open until 5 during the week. Unless they want an appointment. I’m going out of my mind Donny!” Reaching back with her foot she steadied the computer chair before flinging herself into it and allowing the momentum to send her sliding across the narrow entryway and into her workstation.

“Mak, we have been open for 3 years. You say the same damn thing every week. If you don’t want to work on Tuesdays…..don’t schedule yourself.” The smooth baritone voice rolled down the hallway. She heard his footsteps heading towards the reception desk just as the front door chimed.

“Got it!” Mak yelled, launching herself out of the chair. “Welcome to ThirdEye Modifications, How can we…” The rest of her overly cheerful and well rehearsed speech was cut off by the crash of the chair bouncing off the wall and her own not-so-graceful trip to the tile. Luckily her pained and embarrassed groan was covered up by Donny’s hysterical laughter.

“Oh, God, are you ok?” The new client’s voice was as careful as his hands when he helped her from her very dignified heap on the floor. Mak automatically tilted her head to face him with her biggest, most cheerful, nothing-to-see-here-folks smile plastered on.

“Yup. Happens all the time, no big deal. As I was saying, how would you like your body altered today?”

“Ummm, I was hoping for a tattoo?”

“Great! I’m Mak, resident artist. Donny over there makes people sparkly. Let’s head over to my area so I can draw you up something. What are you looking to get and where?”

She grabbed his wrist and dragged him into one of the stations, depositing him into the consultation chair--a wing backed monstrosity that Donny threatened to burn on a monthly basis-- and pulling her sketching supplies from the carefully organized stacks and boxes. Her client shifted in the seat, rubbing his hands together--rough, calloused, sounded like sandpaper on leather, his wrist had felt huge, she couldn’t wrap her fingers all the way around, and it felt like she had been pulling a mountain into her station. When he spoke, his voice was still soft, whether from nerves or if that was just his personality, she didn’t know.

“Well….it's...I just...damn.” A hard exhale through the nose. “My brother. He recommended you. Said that one of your guys had done his piece before he went overseas. A green Phoenix on  his calf?”

“Yeah, Bondi did that one. We have different styles though...If you want, I can do a rough draft of the idea and give it to him and he can schedule an appointment with you when he gets in?”

“No, I… I did my homework and I liked your stuff...it’s...softer? I dunno. This is stupid.” Mak waited. Most people looking for their first tattoo fell into one of two categories: “Dude! DUDE!!! WE should totally get a Tattoo!!”, and “Oh, god this is going to be on me FOREVER. It needs to be PERFECT!”  She would take the latter any day of the week. He would tell her what she needed to know, if she let him get the nerve up.

“It’s my sister. We’re twins, but she is like, four minutes older than me. She’s always looked out for me and stuff. But she’s about to get married and is moving to California, and is freaking out because she thinks that I’m going to self destruct without her. Which...fair enough. So….I wanted to get something to show her that...I’ll be Ok, I guess? She’s like this warrior-woman, super smart, and I’m used to being in her shadow, but I can be my own person too...we used to go hiking all the time, and she was the one who taught me basic survival skills--so I wanted to get two trees….next to some water, maybe? On my forearm.”

Putting pencils to paper, Mak had him tell more stories about growing up, keeping her face angled down as if she was following the flow of the sketch. She kept her eyes closed, listening for the hints of personalities that people always included without realizing. After about half an hour of sketching, she showed him his idea. A massive oak next to a smaller, more delicate ash, with the impression of a stream running between them. She gently took ahold of his arm, and arranged the paper over the skin so he could get an idea of placement and size. “Perfect” he smiled.

“Ok, so you said that you had done research. Do you know about my unique method of tattooing?”

“Yeah, I know that all of your stuff is grayscale, and that your clients say that it heals faster and doesn't hurt as much your way.”

“Do you know why?” a negative sound from across the desk. “I don’t use a machine. As long as I am the one that draws something, I can...convince it to leave the paper and live in your skin. It still hurts, but there is no actual puncture wounds to take care of. Still very light sensitive, and feels like a massive bruise though.”


“Don’t know. My mom said that it’s God’s way of making up for me not being able to see the world around me, I get to make beautiful art another way” She removed her tinted glasses to reveal completely pitch black eyes “I told her that’s bullshit because plenty of other blind artists paint and sculpt. Not going to complain though…..I like marking people”

With a bright smile, she dipped one finger into an inkwell, and then pressed the other hand over the sketch. The ink spread through her veins and seeped into his skin as the process began.

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