Tattoos. One for each moment in life that actually had meaning. I adore running my hands along the painted skin, the ink that should not naturally be there. Each design is beautiful and intricate, none of them simple, and all of them unique. There are many on this single body and they are all in many different places positioned on her glowing skin.
Her first is the seahorse on the left side of her chest, just above her heart. Small, yellow, cute. It represents her younger sister, Jane, who died at age twelve. She had leukemia and, though she suffered, I was told that she always had a bright smile on her youthful face. "Why a seahorse?" I had asked her once. She explained that it was the stuffed animal she had bought Jane when she was first hospitalized at the age of ten. Ever since that day, Jane never went anywhere without that stuffed seahorse, which was small enough for her to carry in her little, fragile hands. "She died with it in her arms," she told me, tears threatening her mint green eyes. But she didn't cry. She was stronger than crying, or so she said.
The second is on the side of her right thigh. Bright orange with a hint of red. It's a tribal type of tattoo, those ones with abstract waves of lines that design an object. A star with wings that resembled fire is how I describe it. It represents a night she rarely speaks of. A night of camping out under the stars in the middle of a forest closed around a bonfire. I wish I knew what had happened to make it so memorable. Though, each time I ask, she simply tells me, "It's my secret. But it was a changing night for me when I realized many things that make me who I am today." I wish I could be special enough to know... special enough to hold her secrets as she holds mine.
But I don't dwell on the spread of flaming color. Instead I move on to the tattoo on her right calf. A very colorful hummingbird rests on the skin in mid-flight. This one stands for her first performance on stage. She's a wonderful actress, on and off stage. Not that I'm saying she's always acting when she's with me... but some of her actions, as affectionate as they may appear, seem fake. I didn't notice at first, but the more time I spent with her, the more I began to realize how much her heart was not entirely involved in some things. She was lustful but not loving... and now I've come to find it hard to decipher whether or not she's being truthful about her feelings.
I sigh as I look upon the next, a Betta fish swimming through the flesh of her left hip bone. Metallic violets, dark at the head, light in the center and then changing into a completely different shade of purple, possibly magenta, at the fins before darkening at the tips. It's one of my favorites. The exotic coloring appeals to my eyes so much that I can stare at it for hours and always learn something new about the design. "Symbolizes my first real fight." She told me with hatred in her eyes. I know what she means, the fight for freedom and acceptance. Her hometown was not as accepting about homosexuality as other parts of the world at the time she came out. She lost contact with much of her family, her mother shunned her for some time and she became out-casted in her school. Eventually she moved to live with her aunt, who was much more understanding and accepted her with open arms.
A pink, white dotted and bordered stargazer lily blooms at the base of her spine. Her first girlfriend. The one who deserved a tattoo. Three years that girl occupied my beloved's life and helped her become who she is today. She comes up in many conversations and jealously overruns me. It's not as though I can really hate her for having been so close to the one I love, but I can tell she is still longed for and wanted, perhaps even more than myself. Carina was her name, and even though it was over two years ago, the heart that I want to be mine still belongs to her. Such a horrible cliché, the heart of a lover resting in the past. Yet it still makes me feel pathetic and jealous of a girl who is thousands of miles away, perhaps on a whole other continent. "She moved on to help people," was all I've been told. Whether it was the Peace Corps or the Mercy Ship, or maybe a position within the education system, I'll never know.
The next tattoo is on her back, on which she currently lie. It's just below her left shoulder blade. A scarred and torn heart, which obviously had once fallen apart, wrapped with green, thorny vines in attempt to hold it together. This was the time when her mother contacted her after five years of silence and hatred. It was extremely difficult for her to be forgiven. Of course, any mother to discriminate against her own daughter and to be just as homophobic, if not more, than a stranger didn't deserve forgiveness in my mind. But somehow the two worked it out enough for her to actually call her mother 'mom' again, even if there's still a high level of tension and awkwardness in the air when they're together.
As I cuddled up to her side, I like to imagine there's another tattoo on her right side. My side... or at least that's the side of her I'm always on. When we walk down the street, I'm on her right. When we sit on the couch, watching television, I'm on her right. When we sleep, I'm on the right side. And times like this, in the silence of the dawn, when I examine the canvas of her skin, I'm on the right. I run the back of my fingers along the soft, sensitive, pure skin of her side. I wish there could be a small golden green dragon permanently painted on that flesh. A dragon to represent me.
When I was younger, I started drawing random cartoons and portraits. That developed into scenery and animals, and then one day I discovered dragons. They were the hardest things for me to draw for the longest time. Until that one day when I finally perfected them, by painting a Chinese dragon. Emerald green with metallic gold tints on its scales and fur. Ever since, this dragon became my signature. I would constantly draw or paint that dragon in as many different positions with as many varying scenery as I could muster. To have that perfected dragon forever marked upon my lover's body would be my greatest wish.
But the skin where my hand caresses is empty and there is probably no chance of any part of myself being remembered on this skin. She doesn't love me. I can tell with the doubt in her kisses. Lust is the only true emotion she expresses freely around me. If we're in public together she rarely holds my hand. If we kiss goodbye it is a short, quick kiss on the lips with the same constructed smile every time.
I think to myself, "perhaps it's time for me to let her go and find another to leave my mark upon." Though I love her with everything in me, there isn't much left for me in this relationship. With deep a sigh, I reach to move her long hair from her neck, to give her a sweet kiss of goodbye, when I discover something new. A tattoo I had never seen before. Although I had been out of town for nearly a week until tonight, it would be highly unlikely for her to get a new one during that time.
However, the tattoo looked fresh, not yet to the peeling stage but closely gaining. The designs are a labyrinth of black ink curved into what appears to be a scaled wing. Within the inner lines of the wing, the ink forms what seems to be letters and as I look closer I realize that my name is inside the wing. The stylish, medieval lettering of my name is connected to every other line that makes up the dragon wing.
Suddenly she stirs under my intense, stunned gaze and turns to face me. Instantly I can tell in her eyes that she's realized what I've seen. Her mint eyes look into my own strong ones and even though she blushing from a hint of embarrassment, she gives me a promising, real, smile. Perhaps my mark, in a new way I had never anticipated, found its eternal resting place at last.