What if our deepest desires manifested as tattoos on our skin?
* * 13 * *
His arm started to burn again. Homer looked down, hoping for something new, but at the sight of the ninth copy of the same double triangle, he seriously considered removing the arm entirely.
The thoughts of self-disarming subsided as he put on his coat and grabbed his keys.
He looked around for the owner of the voice.
“Over here,” said Brian, a very lanky man who seemed to be lounging on the bench across the street. Homer joined him. “You decide to sleep in this morning?”
“Sadly, no,” said Homer.
Homer sighed and pulled up the sleeve of his jacket just enough for Brian to see the new tattoo.
“Aw, man. I’m sorry,” said Brian.
“What’re you gonna do about it? Right?” Homer said in surrender.
Brian was suddenly filled with purpose. His posture straightened out and a new tattoo appeared on his neck: three different sized boxes arranged like a medal podium. “I know exactly what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna get you a new tattoo.” Next to the boxes, there suddenly appeared a thick circle. “Right after we get some donuts.”
A brisk walk and half a dozen donuts later, Brian was back to the original task. “Now, how’re we gonna get you that tat?”
“Not all of us get tats like you do, Brian. I didn’t even get my first until I was nearly twelve.”
“Twelve? Are you kiddin’ me?”
“Wish I were. If they showed up more frequently, maybe I’d actually know what I should be looking for.” Homer rubbed his arm. “Of course, when you’re being told to go after something that’s no longer available . . .”
“Believe me,” said Brian. “I been there.” He sat his leg on the table and lifted his pant leg to show off a ring of tattoos around his ankle. “This one here,” he said pointing to one of the dozen or so symbols running from the middle of his calf all the way down into his shoe, “I got back in ’83. I never did get that gumball.”
“Yeah,” said Homer less sarcastically than he wanted. “You clearly understand.” Unlike his companion, Homer could essentially count the tattoos he had on one hand: a broken chain on his left ankle, a parrot on his upper right arm, an eye of Horus on his right shoulder blade, and the nine identical double triangles on his left forearm that had all arisen in the last month. “I think I just need some more time,” he said as he rose. “I’ll talk t’you tomorrow.”
Brian grinned, and Homer noticed a second thick circle appearing on his neck just below the first.
He felt quite confident that a walk was what he needed to clear his mind. What he hadn’t counted on, however, were his feet dragging him to the one place he didn’t want to go. He saw the large oak tree long before he realized which one it was. By the time he saw the small tombstone at its base, he was too close to turn back.
Homer stared down at the grave, emblazoned with nothing but a name and the same double triangle that kept appearing on his arm.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered, tears welling up in his eyes. “I am so sorry.”
“You really loved her, didn’t you?”
Homer hadn’t noticed the woman before now. She was leaning against the tree, long arms crossed just above her slender waist. Her green eyes stabbed at his gut as she brushed back a lock of her auburn hair to reveal a large dragon tattoo covering much of her face.
“Good,” she said brightly. “So you do remember me.”
“How could I forget?”
Belinda nodded toward the grave. “She talked about you a lot, y’know.”
Homer felt his jaw tighten.
Belinda smiled. “Come on,” she said, bouncing a bit as she turned toward the city. “I’ve got something to show you.” As she walked, Homer couldn’t help but watch her hips sway back and forth, unintentionally lulling him into a hypnotic state. The thing that managed to snap him out of it was the burning on his left forearm.
He looked down to see the new tattoo: a long, coiling dragon weaving in between and around the triangles.
“Well, if you insist,” he said as he ran to catch up with Belinda.