My mother always hated tattoos, and yet she had them all over her body. She hated smoking, and yet whenever I saw her she had a cigarette pressed between her lips.
When my mother died, I didn’t hold a funeral. I had her cremated, and I stuffed her ashes in a plastic bag.
Three years later I moved to New York City. Everything there reminded me of her. I saw her lips smoking a cigarette, her acrylic nails tapping against her bottle of beer. I saw her face in every window. Guilt started to erode me. I started smoking and with each puff memories started floating back to me. For the first time in four years I cried ugly tears for my mother.
This story begins in an ally in New York city. I’m standing in the damp air my hands stuffed into my coat pockets. Anxiety is flowing through my body and I look up towards the sky. A man stares down at me, his face twisting into a malignant smile.
“Would you like to come in?” His voice is deep and husky with a slight New York accent. He smiles again and something in my stomach crawls. My head is pounding, the word no scatters across my brain, but for some reason my feet begin to shuffle forward. My hands reach out, and suddenly I’m inside a small dark room, with one light buzzing with insects. The man stands in front of me, a look of innocence across his cruel features. I cringe back and tears start to tingle at the backs of my eyes. The man steps forward and grabs my pale arm tightly. My stomach lurches.
“I hear you want a tattoo,” Only breath leaks between my lips as he takes a step forward.
The man sits me down in a rough leather chair and pulls ink and a needle from his bag. Without asking my permission he starts to ink my skin, and I cry out as pain bursts up my arm.
“Get away from me!” My chest is tight and I struggle to breath, why am I letting this happen? The man meets my eyes and sadness is reflected there.
“Trust me.” His voice is quiet but steady. I don’t why I do, but I let my body relax and this mysterious man tattoo me. With each flash of burning pain brought on by his needle, memories begin flooding back to me.
My mother kissing me goodnight. My mother taking three jobs just to get a simple meal on the table. My mother helping me with my homework, her dark hair hanging over her slim frame. My mother, my mother, my mother. Who despite her flaws and dark underside always loved me. I am overcome with the knowledge that I will never see my mother again. I will never hear her say my name. I will never smell her cigarette breath, or laugh at her jokes. The woman who had raised me is gone, and she is never coming back.
The pain stops, and I look up to see the man is crying. Tears slip down his cheeks, and he brushes them away quickly. The room seems brighter, and I feel no fear. I look down at my arm expecting ink to be crawling across my skin, but my arm is normal, not a hair out of place. I look up expecting to see the odd man crying, but I’m alone in the alley again. Tears leak down my cheeks, and I sink down onto the dirty New York pavement. I don’t know who I am or what I’m doing, but I do know that for the first time in four years I feel ok.