The Blind Tattooist

This in response to Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenge

You cup your palm over the back of his hand, you place his palm on the part of your body where you want him to work, and you take your hand away. That’s the last input you have.

He sits by the table, his hand steady where you have laid it on your shoulder, leg, hip, chest, and for a long moment nothing happens. You stare into his pale blind eyes and breathe. You have waited months for this appointment, after even more months debating whether you want it at all. But you do. After some minutes your heart rate normalizes. He turns away and fixes a new needle into his instrument. His hand hovers over the jars of color and descends to the black. Outline first, then. The tattoo gun buzzes to life, and he brings the needle down against your skin, a touch as delicate as butterfly feet. It stings, then it burns. Tuck your lower lip between your teeth. Breathe. In and out. In and out. The hurt doesn’t stop, exactly, but it becomes something else. After a few minutes, perhaps you feel aroused. Don’t move. It will pass.

You can’t see his work. You’re not supposed to. He can’t see his work either but his hand moves with calm assurance as he doles out line and color. The image grows, covers more space. The pain becomes the world’s background, pain within the voice of the vibrating needle, addictive pain. Perhaps, again, you feel arousal. He knows it and absorbs it into his art. When he stops to change the needle or to switch colors you hold your breath until the pain sings to life again.

The stinging moves along your skin. This will be a long tattoo. You feel the curves laid into your skin, the moments when the line changes direction, where he moves the needle to another part of your chest, hip, leg, shoulder. There is no use wondering what he is drawing on your skin. This is why you came here, to let him feel his way into your life, your past, your disappointments and desires. To open your eyes to the finished tattoo will be to open your eyes to yourself. Are you ready for that? Will you be ready for that, when the song ends and he lays his instrument down and leans away from you?

How long has it been? You have been here for hours, perhaps for days. Your skin becomes sore. You imagine it reddening, you feel the soft cloth as he wipes blood away so that he can continue working. Breathe. Breathe. You will not cry out or moan, you required that this be done. Take what you desired, all of it.

Then, abruptly, it ends. He swivels his stool away. You hear him drop his instrument onto the tray that holds his colors, you feel his fingers tap the back of your hand and you sit up, dizzy. You open your eyes. It is still mid-afternoon, the sun still shines outside the window.

A glass of water sits on the table beside you and you drink, surprised at the roughness in your throat. You look down your body. He has covered the site in translucent plastic and you cannot see the tattoo. Are those words? Can you make out color? No, not really.

He hands you a print-out with after-care instructions and you pay him. You hesitate a moment at the door. The sidewalk feels different under your feet, farther away perhaps, or a little closer than before. People walk along it, alone or in groups. Nobody pays attention to you. The world seems oddly quiet, without the buzz.

You make your way home. You strip and sit before the mirror. Your fingertips hover above the translucent plastic.

The blind tattooist has comprehended your life, your emotions, your known and unknown needs. He has seen who you are, in ways that you can never see yourself. And he has tattooed your future into your skin.

Will you look?