Tuesday 14 February 2012

The Lovers on Wee Fictions - Brian Hill

Welcome to My Life, Tattoo

In the wide mirror I sat, a chain around my wrist, as blue as the sky, on my arm, a net, running up the skin, reticulated. Over time, my eyes had become watery and ill-defined, just as the tattooed skin had blurred, decade by decade. So, too, the memories they stood for, feathered at the edges, merging. Tattoos: moments scratched beneath the surface. As if memory alone was not enough.

I put my shirt back on, covered up my illustrated past. Most days I lived without it bothering me. But today was St Valentine’s and I remembered. The first cut is the deepest. Like the song.

I actually claimed the Who inspired my first tattoo, from their song of the same name. It was almost a complete lie. No, I did it for love. Unrequited, as it turned out. Unacknowledged. I pulled up the sleeve on my left arm. On the inside, just above the elbow, where I could keep it hidden: tattoo, my secret love.

Going on seventeen to my eighteen, she was pretty, fair, and I was, what, still a boy? I longed for her at a distance. I decided to have her name embroidered on my flesh, in a heart, with a crude lighting bolt, my indelible love, just out of sight, just short of painful.

It would have remained secret, but for a word from someone else. She confided, ‘Anne really likes you. She’s just shy, that’s all…’ Encouraged, I walked on air and my tattoo throbbed with the memory of its bloody making.

Valentine’s Day came. I had a card. Just the one. In the cafĂ© that evening, Baz, Anne’s brother sat across from me. Pure chance. Out of the blue, he said, ‘I’m heading back to the house. Anne’ll be there… You don’t mind?’ On the way, he added, ‘I’ll drop you off, then I’ve to get Lynn. Catch you later.’

Alone with Anne, conversation circled the unsaid. Courage was hard to find. But I found it. I got the words out. ‘Did you send me a Valentine card?’
‘No’ she replied.

All the things I could have said, all the things I could think of now, escaped my stupid tongue. Where was, ‘I think you did…’? Where, the lie, ‘I sent you one…’? Where, even, ‘I wish you had.’? No, ‘I love you’. No, ‘See me, feel me, touch me… heal me’. ‘Oh’ I said.

Baz and his girlfriend came back to find us sitting in unimaginable silence. Quizzical glances, shrugs. Love was history so I had to leave. In time, ‘Anne’ became ‘Mary-Anne’ across the tattooed heart. 'Mary-Anne with the Shaky Hand', another song by the Who. Another lie.

In the mirror after so long, I remembered it. I remembered all the tattoos that followed and the life they led me. In the blue glass, the bluer haze of my skin was a mist, like the past. I buttoned my shirt up to cover everything. My own hands were shaking.

*     *     *

Brian Hill is designer and filmmaker living in the wilds of Moray. He was, and still is, a founder member of Brian and the Brains and has also been known as the rhyme-slinger, Hilly cunctator, the cartoon cowboy, and latterly the planetarium poet. In between he has teased a living in the voluntary sector, designed for money and made tiny movies. He did have something published once and has written (and performed) many poems on astronomy, the cosmos and our heathen past, usually in complete darkness. His last public work was a voice over and short poem for Gill Russell’s Long Wave installation at the Clan Donald Centre in Skye, late 2010.

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