day 4 lads are you READY for this angst fest - pastel/punk heck yeah.
Mentions of death, homophobia, bullying, cancer.
One last thing, before the slate is wiped clean. One last memory of Simon Salisbury.
I am adamant that there is something slightly wrong with a boy like me getting a tattoo in a place like this.
See, I’m clean-cut: pressed cotton shirts and folded sweaters, golden toed oxfords and ankle-biting skinny jeans, all in pretty shades of pastel rainbows and not a lot of black. I belong in my sweet shop over the road. Literally. I don’t have time to be here and spin yarns with the boys behind the counter. I just need to book it in, tell them what I want, and go. This place gives me enough anxiety just knowing it has sharp objects, controlled by people I don’t know - people who could hurt me. Not to mention, I don’t look like I should be here. Graffiti and flower don’t exactly go together very well.
“Hello?” One of the boys calls from the counter. “Can I help?”
Fuck my life he’s gorgeous.
I step forward awkwardly. He raises an eyebrow. Neither of us have time for this, clearly.
“Yeah, uh,” I stammer. I think he’s sees my hands shaking on the dark wood, so I shove them in my pockets and continue as efficiently as possible. “Can I book something for tomorrow?”
He frowns at my insistence to be here. Crap, I hate this place. I can’t believe I’m promising to come back. The boy pulls out a pen and notepad with a sigh and taps the desk impatiently. “Tomorrow’s pretty busy,” he observes. “You could come over after your shift?”
Slightly pissed off, his grey eyes glare at me through his ridiculously rogue fringe. “You work at the flower place, right?”
Oh. Oh. “Shit, yeah. Sorry, I’m… Yeah, that’s fine - about 5:30.”
He nods, grinning slightly before reverting back to his standard, bitter expression. “I’ll be taking care of you, then. Do you have a design I could see?”
Quickly and far too anxiously for his liking, I pull out the note, the last note she ever left me, folded perfectly to avoid all of the words and leave just the drawing of two roses, intersected by the stems. I suck in a quiet breath and begin to consider that I don’t need to do this.
Then again, I do.
The boy, dismissive as usual, snaps a few photos and pushes it back across the counter. “Where’s it going?” He questions, for more conversational than I expected for someone who seems to have the same emotional threshold as a dead leaf. “Arm? Ankle?”
I try to stop my voice from shaking, but it doesn’t seem to matter as I quietly declare: “Right forearm.”
It surprises us both, how broken it sounds. The boy, grey eyes blown wide and worried, is about to ask something - please don’t please don’t please don’t - so I cut him off with a strategic cough and point to the inside of my right arm. “Sorry. Just there. Right forearm.”
He almost looks sympathetic. I smile briefly and only end up making it a more tense interaction. “Okay…er, could I get a name.”
“And a last name?”
Oh fuck. I can’t say it. I can’t do it. I can’t-
He writes it down, frowns, quirks one eyebrow and sighs again. “I’m Baz. Come by around 5:30, I’ll sort you out.”
I can tell he doesn’t really want me here, but I suppose that’s part of the reason I showed up - spite.
My oxfords click across the expanse of the tattoo parlour, the sound alone over-stimulating my anxiety. Simple things begin to worry me - what if I annoy him? What if he yells at me? What if I sit where I’m not supposed to sit? - and as 1000 worst case scenarios play on a reel behind my my eyes, Baz turns up looking a far sight more concerned than before.
He eyes my appearance - cropped, short-sleeved white shirt (previously hidden by pink sweater), light blue skinny jeans grazing above my ankles, my white, gold-toed oxfords - though I wish he wouldn’t stare. It’s obvious I don’t fit in with the scenery, but I don’t need him of all strangers to put me out of place. I just…need this. One last thing before I let it all go, start a new chapter, and never look back on my life before this day.
“Snow,” he greets lightly.
A sudden dose of guilt rolls through my chest. That’s not me. “It’s Simon,” I correct.
He shrugs. “It’s not a big deal. Leave your stuff over there, follow me.”
It is degrading to be wanting to sob my heart out in this stranger’s presence, but I push it aside momentarily to do as I’d been told. Baz leads me out the back and points to a seat. I almost laugh at myself for worrying about this part - but I remember Baz is here, so I don’t.
“All right - standard stuff,” he tells me. “It’s gonna hurt. Fuck what anyone told you. A needle is going into your skin, and it’s going to hurt like a bitch. Hygiene is of the utmost importance here, so don’t worry: the needle is clean, otherwise I would not have a job. After this is done I can go over some things to take care of your tattoo. Is this your first?”
I stare blankly at the ground. It’s gonna hurt. How many times has that been said to me these past months? “Yeah, it is.”
Baz pauses his work to stare me down, so I do my best to look like I’ve been intently listening to his spiel. He sighs. “Okay, are you sure you want to do this, Snow?”
“That’s not my fucking name,” I seethe. Baz looks as shocked as I feel. With a quick cough and a hope for dismissal, I shrink back. “Sorry, I- yeah, I’m sure.”
He sits down on my right and examines his canvas. “It’s fine,” he lies (so obviously lies - he practically sang it out, lips rolled back back, eyes burning). “May I know what the roses mean? Is it a symbol for anything?”
He’s preparing my skin. I remember seeing them doing this in hospitals for IVF tubes, and leaving the room to give them space. I’m good at giving people space. “It was just a drawing from someone.”
He smirks. “A girlfriend?”
I don’t. “No.”
“Do you know how to be happy? Or do you flux between anxiety and anger?”
The needle goes in and jabs at my skin. I gasp at first, then sigh, because I was beginning to feel numb again. “Do you know how to be happy? Pretty sure your facial expressions range from pissed off to livid.”
Ironically, he laughs. “Come on, Snow-”
“That’s still not my fucking name,” I comment breezily, focus on anything but his needle, until it stops.
“What exactly am I engraving on your body right now? Because I feel you’re enjoying this far too much and I’m not about to support that.”
I grimace, head falling back on the chair. Baz is a stranger, cold in emotions and yet somehow warm at heart. His needle goes down onto the work bench. “My name isn’t Snow.”
“Oh, for fuck-”
“It’s literally not my last name,” I admit, slightly shaky. Baz stops, suddenly willing to listen. “It’s Salisbury. Snow is my middle name, but I haven’t gone by Salisbury for months now.”
Baz softens, his hands placed over my wrist. “Why?”
That one words feels more loaded than the entire ordeal of actually getting a tattoo. “It was my mum’s. She died. My father literally only came back to tell me that it’s my fault she got cancer - it was God’s punishment for me and my romantic preferences.”
Baz raises his eyebrows at me. I can’t begin to assume what he’s thinking. At first I assumed it was going to be ‘ha, of course you’re queer’, judging by how he was staring at my outfit earlier, but instead he continues with the tattoo, grimacing when I don’t care too much about the pain. It’s not that I like it at all - no, it hurt like a bitch - I just have a very high pain threshold and a very low desire to have people know I’m in pain.
He stops again.
“It wasn’t your fault.”
My eyes are closed to drown out the needle, but I don’t open them to frown at him. “What?”
“I- your mum. They tried to tell me that, too, a bunch of kids I went to school with. They said my mother was killed because 'you’re a fag’ and 'she’d hate you anyway’. Sucked.”
Baz is gay.
“Thanks,” I whisper. Almost unrecognised, I add: “And I’m sorry you went through that.”
The needle starts again.
“What does the note say?” He asks. “The one with the drawing. What does it say?”
I hesitate. No one else has seen it before Baz, on my lunch break, and even then he didn’t read it. As far as everyone else is concerned, my mother and I never spoke within her last few months. This isn’t true. She’d send me flowers from my own store with little notes exactly like these, and I’d call her every night when she was alone. Supporting her queer son was not something she was allowed to do in front of family members. Despite my personal attachment to it, I pull the note out anyway, still perfectly folded in my wallet, and hold it out for Baz. The ink on his hands worries me to not let him take it, but he reads it from his seat.
I love you!! Hoping to see you this Summer, very much miss seeing you around. Hope you’re studying hard, my rosebud boy :)
Love Mum xxx
“Oh,” he whispers.
“She died three days later.”
I will not cry in front of Baz. No, I will not. I have done all my crying, I have seen every detail and kept ever perspective on this ordeal. I have been blamed, and disowned, and left without family, but this chapter of my life is new. It isn’t one where I’m shaking and crying in a corner like the past few months. Baz sees me getting upset and starts the needle again and continues to work. The pain itches at my arm and leaves an ache running up my arm. I gasp. Baz seems relieved.
He finishes his work and rolls away on his chair, wiping his hands on a stray damp rag. A gauze goes over the ink after a few moments of silent marveling. Baz grins at me, and fusses over me far more than any of his other customers, I’m guessing. Particularly because he does a whole lot of uncensored smiling when I’m looking at him. He seems to be nearly speaking, and then not. It entertains me to press on.
Until I’m paying for the service, he’s quiet and happy. I give him thanks and say goodbye, picking up my sweater and walking out.
Then: “Hey, Simon, wait.”
I swear my blood pulses harder. “Yeah?”
Baz’s hand ghosts over my arm. He’s forward, confident, I’ll give him that on a good turn, but now he’s finding some kind of shyness. “How about you stay with me tonight?” He offers. “You know, so I can look after your ink.”
I turn around, suddenly much closer to Baz than I’d anticipated, knocking my nose against his chin. With a giggle, I ask: “Do you take all of your clients home?”
His lips are scary close to my forehead. (I’m hoping he’ll lean down instead.) “Only the cute ones.”