7in7: Day Two

[One story. 7 parts. This is another part.]

“Right.
Thanks.
What’s going on with you?”

“Oh, you know. Worked this morning making coffees for all of the lovelies who had to work in freezing weather. That was a joy. Took a nap, came here. You?”

“Nothing. I just read today.”

“Oh yeah? Another romantic inspiration of one man dominating thousands of men and his name going down in history?”

“Something like that. I don’t know, Elle. I just don’t think this is it. Or maybe I’m just scared that this is it.”

“What’s it?”

But before I could answer, the door opened timidly and that familiar brown hat peeked in. He looked at me through his fleshy wrinkles around his little brown eyes.

“Yeah, hey Frank, sure. Come on in.”

Frank had become a consistent visitor on these particularly cold nights. He didn’t say much. We had tried to get his story out of him, but he preferred to keep his past the past. All he wanted was to survive the night. He poked through the magazine rack until he found something that would keep him interested. He wouldn’t last long though. He never made it past the first few pages before he fell asleep. He must have been exhausted. The freezing cold howling wind wasn’t exactly a lullaby.

I pulled my peacoat from the coat rack and laid it over his shoulder. He glanced through the side of his eyes at me and I looked away. I took a long pull from my beer and walked back over to my chair. I pushed myself back in my chair until my head could rest and the ceiling was in full view.

“I don’t know, Elle. I want something more than coloring on people’s bodies. I want something more than the same ole walk to work every afternoon. I want to be a warrior. I don’t want to just read about warriors, I want to be one. I feel like I was born in the wrong time or I took a wrong turn somewhere in life and ended up here instead of where I am supposed to be.”

“Oh, but this isn’t so bad. You have your freedom. You make a good living. I mean, look at you, you own your own tattoo shop. You get to be an artist every day.”

“I wouldn’t consider what I do on the norm artistry. There are only so many butterflies and Chinese symbols I can do before I’m ready to stick the needle in my eye. I do like the ones with a story, though. I like it when a person wants something that means something to them. You remember the guy I tatted on his ribcage the seven tick marks? He said he wanted to keep up with the times he wanted to die and something kept him from doing it. He said they were there to remind him that there was always hope around the corner. I’ve never forgotten that guy. I wonder if he has any more tick marks? Or if he gave up and died?”

7in7: Day One

[7in7 is a community of artists who commit to making and completing 7 works of art in 7 days. I rarely do this, but I’m going to try my hand at fiction. I recently went to a conference on the life and works of CS Lewis. He was a writer of conviction, of creativity, of vulnerability. He was a man who wrote in the middle of his processes – theologically, philosophically, creatively. He even wrote through the raw pain of suffering and grief. He was a likener. He was a writer who “shed light on what was not in order to show what was”.

For these 7 days, I will try my hand at being a likener.

I missed my first day of 7in7 for reasons unnecessary to explain. So here are days 1 & 2…]

My eyes passed over a stack of books about Native American warriors, Spartans, Vikings and Samurais. Folders of research filled with the ideologies of Hitler, Martin Luther King, Jr., Winston Churchill. I lied on my bed and looked up at my mobile of compasses. The sunlight flickering through the collection of brass, gold, and glass, all of the needles shakily pointing North. My walls were papered with ancient pictures of significant people who took the road less traveled in science and thought: Marx, Darwin, Mohammed and Jesus and those who literally opened the world for physical travel: Cortes, Columbus and deSoto.

I looked in the mirror at the eyes facing back at me. Even they were dressed for battle, dark liquid line shooting out of the corners of my eyes to make me look like an animal huntress. But instead of hunger and power, they were flat and disappointed. They were civilian eyes. Nobody eyes. They were the eyes that would die and make a one line memorial in a 2-page city newspaper. They were eyes that didn’t match the ferocity that I knew I was meant to embody.

I couldn’t do anything about it now though, it was nearly 4pm. I slipped my locket over my head, pulled my beanie down over my ears, slid into my wool peacoat, stomped into my boots, grabbed my bag, kissed my fingers and slapped a bit of superstitious love on the paper mache head of Joan of Arc.

The walk was a bit long, but in truth, I welcomed it. I pulled the collar of my coat up around my ears and dug my fingerless mittens out of the pockets. It was my favorite time of year. Cold, grey, quiet. The streets were nearly empty. The salt truck was doing its vain work of spreading out salt on the streets – as if anyone was actually going to get out and drive.

The coffee cart wouldn’t be out today. Dammit. I should have made coffee before I left. Tonight was going to be long and slow. No one would be coming in after their stupid nights of drunken debauchery. It was too cold for stupidity tonight. Fine by me though. It would just leave more time for me and Elle.

Ten minutes later, I reached the corner of my shop. I grabbed the cold railing and swung myself around to the stairs leading down to the wooden door. The door was my favorite part of my shop. It belonged to the old couple who rented the place before me. He was a cobbler and she was a seamstress. They had brought the door over from their home in Germany to remind them from where they came. The door was solid and green with a small rectangle of stained glass. The glass had been cut, stained and fitted into the shape of a man’s face. The work was a bit shoddy, but it just made the man’s face more interesting. His eyes were an un-human bright blue, his cheek bones pink and his beard an orangey-yellow. The rest of the glass around his face was a muted grey making the rest of the pieces even more unrealistic.

I never got a chance to ask who the man in the picture was, but when my chair was emptied of night owls aiming to make their body a piece of art, I could crawl up in my chair and dream about who this man was.

I pushed open the door and threw my bag on the floor next to my chair.

“Elle! Elle, you here?”

“Yeah, yeah. Stop yelling. I’m in the back. Be there in a sec.”

I pulled off my jacket leaving my mittens and hat on and hung it on the coat rack. I flipped the switch and heard the neon light buzz. I grabbed my bag, pulled out my appointment book, and stuck it in the cabinet next to my chair. I had one appointment at 9:30pm, but I doubt she’ll show. It’s too cold to get a tattoo. No one wants to deal with dropped trou in 30 degree weather. And no doubt, by the giggly call I got yesterday, it would be some sorority girl who wanted to stamp her identity somewhere that would require clothing removal for show and tell.

Elliana walked through the back door with two beers in hand.

“Here. It’s not like we’ll be working tonight anyway.”