The drill was sharp. The drill was cold. The drill was piercing into my skin, dropping blots of black ink all over. I clenched my fist in an attempt to subdue the agony I was feeling. It hurts.
“How much longer?” I asked.
Suddenly, the drilling stopped. The tattooist removed his glasses and stood up. Black ripped jeans and a wine stained collar shirt were the only articles of clothing covering his tatted up body. His neck was covered, his forearms were covered, even the back of his ear had a turtle imprinted on it. Maybe he’s really fond of turtles? A certain area captured my attention, and soon enough, it captured my leer as well. He had a tattoo of a pier running down his right forearm through to his wrist. Nothing crazy about a pier or anything, just that this pier? I could’ve sworn it moved. But then again, I could just be seeing things from all the pain I’ve endured in what feels like an eternity.
“So just sit tight, alright?” The tattooist said frankly.
“Sorry I didn’t catch that. Could you repeat it?”
The tattooist sighed loud enough for me to comprehend that he was just about sick of my shit.
“I said, we’ve only been here for like five minutes. This will be a four to five hour session, so just sit tight and let me know if the pain becomes too unbearable. Alright?”
I nodded in silence. Mostly because I was embarrassed. The drilling continued and I was left with my thoughts. How did I get here? A friend of mine was egging me on to get a tattoo despite my constant berating on a single topic: I fucking hate needles. Plus, tattoos are permanent. How could I possibly come up with a good idea for a tattoo when I can’t even make up my mind on a relatively simple decision: Do you wanna move in together?
“Well? Do you wanna move in together?” Dee asked.
“It’s not that simple.” I said.
“What’s so complicated about it? It’s a simple yes or no question.”
“It’s just a big step you know. I haven’t even run it by my parents yet.”
“Babe, you’re like 26-years-old. You’re a grown ass man. You can make your own decisions. Is it me?”
“Of course not! It’s not you, at all. It’s just a big commitment you know. It’s just so… permanent. There’s no going back. I just need some time to think about it.” I said.
Dee just nodded and grabbed my hand. I found myself a good one. Dee was strong-willed, she was determined and calculating, but endearing and kind all at the same time. She was too good for me, I know. The only person who didn’t know was Dee. We’d been dating for the last four years so this relatively simple question of hers was actually meant to be met with a relatively simple answer: Yes I will move in with you. So why couldn’t I say it?
“So what do you wanna do tonight?” Dee smiled.
“Let’s do our first date again! How fun would that be?” I said.
“Corny. But adorably thoughtful.” She smirked.
“So, you wanna?”
“Okay let’s do it. You’re driving.” She laughed.
We drove to the other side of town. We had Childish Gambino singing about the year 3005, we had Dee telling me to drive carefully while she carefully painted her nails in a moving vehicle. And we had two large cokes from McDonalds.
“Hey babe, do you really have to do that while-”
I’m only afraid of three things in this world. Sharp needles, the crippling, inevitable reality that we all die someday, and Dee’s death stare. In that exact order.
We arrived at the place. Cantina De La Santos. Which probably means ‘three kitchens’ in Spanish but I never bothered to look it up. The place had a really old-school feel to it. Like a date you go on in the 90’s. But step inside and you’ll find that you were sorely mistaken. Inside, it was like a whole other world. Dimly lit for the romantics, curtains covering each booth for the people who appreciate privacy. And a small button on the end of the table, only to be pressed when you need another drink. Doesn’t get any more premium than that. I had an old-fashioned, she had a french martini. Luckily, we got the same corner booth on such short notice. We talked about our first date, about how nervous I was, about how beautiful she was. About how corny I was. About how warm she felt when she was around me.
“I love this place. I don’t think I could ever get over coming here. I love you.” She smiled.
“Please don’t tell me you passed out.” The tattooist muttered.
“I said, this is a pretty unique idea for a tattoo. What’s it of?” He asked.
“A reminder of what?”
“What my lady used to be like.” I said.
With that, the tattooist threw himself back into his work. The drill was sharp. The drill was cold. The drill was piercing into my skin, dropping blots of black ink all over. But this time, I had acclimated to the pain. I welcomed it this time.
“We just passed about half way man. Need a break?” He asked.
“Nah, I’m going alright.”
“Alright man. I’ve been there by the way. It gets better, trust me.”
“Does your tattoo of the pier have something to do with that?” I asked, curious.
“Keen eye haha. Yeah, I guess you could say that. It’s Santa Monica Pier. I used to take my girl there all the time. She moved away awhile ago, but this here helps me feel like she’s close by, you know?”
I just nodded. The silence in the air felt familiar, made me realise that this person is similar. Similar, but not exactly. The drilling continued.
“But did you cheat on her?” I asked bluntly.
“Excuse me?” The tattooist stopped the drilling.
“I asked if you cheated on your girl.” I asked again.
“Step off man. But for your information, I didn’t cheat. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t do anything wrong either.” He said.
“At least you didn’t cheat.” I said blankly.
Dee and I left the restaurant in a swirl of tipsy good vibes. We jumped in my car while the laughter between us was still lively.
“Okay I will.” I said joyfully.
“You will what? Haha.” She laughed.
“I will move in with you.”
She gave me a kiss and we went home. I’d never seen her happier.
The next day, I woke up to a frenzy of texts and missed calls. I got dressed and rushed over to her place.
“What happened next?” The tattooist asked.
“She had to move away.”
“Job I’m assuming? The kind of job you just can’t say no? Boy I’ve been there.”
“But why did it go downhill if she was just moving away?”
I turned to the other side of the room as he continued to drill at my arm.
“Ah. You cheated on her or something?” He asked.
“About two months of her living abroad…”
“Hm, well the past is the past man, don’t let that bring you down-”
“She cheated on me.”
“Oh. Man I’m sorry for overstepping. Well, it’s done. Check it out.” He said, wiping his forehead.
My right arm had it all. Corner booth. Curtains. A real old-school feel. It was all there, down to the last detail. Cantina De La Santos. Suddenly, my fresh new ink moved.
“Hey man, is it meant to do this?”
“What, you don’t like it?” The tattooist laughed. His forearm tattoo was now wriggling in motion, clear as day.
“No, no it’s not that. I love the detail. But why’s it moving?” I said, in a startled daze.
“It’s a unique tattoo. For unique people.”
“What’s that meant to mean?”
“Just try it. Focus up on it. I mean, really focus on it.” He laughed.
“What… in the fuc-… okay fine, I’ll try.” I said.
The more I focused on my tattoo, the more it wriggled out of place. Then the wriggling stopped. And it started to tremble. My arm was trembling uncontrollably until I felt pain and screamed.
“This is perfect. I’ve always wanted to come here!” She said.
“What? Wait, what? Where? Wait, what?” I asked with at least a thousand points of confusion.
“This place silly. Cantina De La Santos. I’ve always wanted to come here. Thanks for taking me! She smiled.
“Wait. Dee? Dee, is that you?”
“Yes! Who else would it be? Here’s the drink menu. I think I’ll have a French Martini. What’ll you have?”
“An old fashioned.” I smiled.