The woman had a severe sunburn. I winced when she came up to the counter and said she wanted a tat. She didn’t ask how much or pause to let me ask about her burn. She pulled up her loose shirt tail and showed me the pattern on her stomach.
That’s when I noticed that the burn was only on her front half. The backs of her arms and legs were a normal shade made pale by the red on the front half of her body. Obviously, she’d fallen asleep lying on her back at the beach. But the pattern she showed me:
“It’s where he placed his hand,” she said. “I was drowsy, and when he came up out of the water and lay beside me on the blanket, I asked him to make sure I didn’t sleep, make sure to wake me so I would turn over and not burn. He said he would. He was out of breath from the boogie board and the waves, but he assured me he was wide awake.
“When I woke up, I was mad because he’d fallen asleep too. I shoved his hand aside. But he wasn’t asleep. Massive heart attack. Right there on the blanket beside me. Never made a sound. But he had reached for me there, at the end. He had reached for me and put his hand on my stomach. He tried to tell me. To wake me. He left it there while I slept and he went away.”
I looked at the pale pattern of a left hand print on the lower right side of her stomach. I told her what I’d charge to outline it in black. She waved her hand, dismissing the cost. She didn’t care what it cost.
“Make it red,” she said. “Fill in the pattern the same color as my skin is now. Make it last forever.”
(c) 2010 by Tony Simmons
From the '366 Days' project