American Hearts: Hurricane
I can’t help but stare. I’d say I hadn’t noticed it before, but I was sure it simply wasn’t there. He notices me staring at the wall as he re-caps the bottle of ink and returns it to the open drawer.
"That’s my eighth one," he says, dipping the needle into the ink and tapping his foot on the pedal, “It’s kind of… It’s for the one the got away, yanno?"
I stare at it again, the watercolor on the wall, taking everything in. It’s so traditional that it wouldn’t look out of place on a sailor’s bicep, the eagle, the roses, the heart. But it’s the banner that sticks out to me, the banner hammers the sentiment deep into my skull.
Across the lands you have my heart.
I’m still staring at it, feeling every single word like they’re scarred and healing on my hard heart, as he presses the needle against my arm. The calming comfort of the needle zipping in and out of my skin snaps me back into reality right before he starts his story.
"You might know her, I think. We all went to high school together…" he starts, and as he says her name, I’m brought back to drunken house parties and the way her cigarettes balanced out the sweetness of her lip gloss. I feel pangs of guilt but they subside quickly. I’d never ever loved her, I’d just kissed her.
"Yeah, We’re actually pretty decent friends. I haven’t spoken to her in a while though, living on opposite coasts and all," I mutter, staring down at the permanent changes being made to my upper arm, “She’s a great girl though."
"Yeah man, she’s… We just never could work it out. In high school we were always seeing someone else. And then, the fucking day before graduation man, it’s like a movie, we were sitting on a blanket at the park and we kissed, and I’m telling you, I never bought into any of that movie bullshit before, but it was sparks and a fucking Goo Goo Dolls song, I swear," He kind of laughs as my shoulders tense, his hand sitting heavy on sore and irritated skin, “And then, man, right after graduation, I walked one way and she walked clear across the country."
"And then, man, we just stopped talking. She was with a guy, and I was here trying to make good, and I couldn’t try and tear that apart. But she came back to visit and man, it was like nothing had changed. I didn’t want to be ‘that guy’ but I kissed her, and she kissed me, and can I be honest with you? She was the second person I ever had sex with."
I wince as he again presses the needle into my skin heavier than he normally would, but I can’t hold it against him.
"And then she went back out west. And I guess… now she’s married. And I mean, dude, don’t get me wrong, so am I. And I’m happy. My daughter is beautiful man, and my wife is incredible to me. And I could never be the person that just tears her marriage apart. But I guess, I’m still painting pictures for her, yanno?"
I do know. I want to tell him just how much I know, how much I understand “the one that got away,” How much ink I’ve shed over the woman who won’t be mine. I want to tell him that I swear I can taste the faintest hint of your kiss when there’s gin on my breath, that this tattoo means nothing if I’m not thinking of you. But instead I stare at the way his needle turns the storm clouds a deep shade of violet.
"Yeah man, I definitely see where you’re coming from."
Sometimes we don’t get what we want. We get what we get.
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