I've started a new job. Full time now at the same company I was freelancing for and I’ve taken to working late. Partially out of my own accord, partially because there’s too much to be done, mostly because there’s nothing to go home to. I spend quiet nights sitting at my desk browsing stories, editing links, downloading pictures, uploading pictures, tagging videos…
There's an attractive guy there and in typical L fashion, I take notice almost immediately. He's not the kind of guy I would normally be attracted to. Tall, athletic, light brown hair, blue eyes--a cookie cutter all-American guy straight from the pages of an Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue. He looks like he would surf. He looks like he played football in high school. He probably dated a cheerleader.
But he has a tattoo, and I notice this before I even notice the person. It's a large black and grey Japanese sleeve occupying his left arm from shoulder to midway down his forearm. And he's a lawyer, which I find paradoxical. The "house lawyer" as I refer to him. He makes sure we don't offend anyone too much. He makes sure we don't break the law. I really have no idea what he does but he tells me he graduated from Brooklyn Law School when he introduces himself to me outside while we smoke a cigarette. He smokes the same kind of cigarettes as me.
His desk used to be positioned right by mine in the dark, back area of the office, right by the freight elevator, but after two years there--two weeks for me--the CEO decides he should move to the front by the other lawyer-y types. I lament this over instant messenger to KM, "They are ruining my employee morale." She laughs.
I don't expect anything. I don't want anything. It's just a welcome distraction from the routine: Coffee at ten AM, cigarette break at eleven. Lunch at twelve-thirty, meeting at four. He has a pretty little Chinese girlfriend, another lawyer, very skinny, and they live together (I think) in their cozy apartment in yuppified Brooklyn with a fireplace, exposed brick, flat-screen TV, suede sofa. Maybe they have a dog with an ironic name like Bob. He leaves the office every day at six and they probably order in because they're both too tired to cook, watch some football (if it's Monday) and fuck before they go to bed. I wonder if he's ever pictured me while he's fucking her, and I'm sure he has. Not in a creepy way, but even the good guys, the ones who are in love, need to let their minds wander when they're screwing the same girl every night.
He usually leaves through the back elevator. I decide this is an excuse to pass by me on his way out and not because that exit is closer to his train station. I declare this in my head. Tonight, he passes by my little cave of a desk, leaving late himself, finding me nowhere closer to heading home: "Working late again?"
I sigh and tell him there's so much to do. No time to do it. Busy week, busy week. As he turns to leave, he stops himself: "What's that tattoo on your arm?"
I show him the ambigram I have etched into my left forearm, "Want/Need" and we launch into a discussion about tattoos. He divulges the locations of the rest of his ink that I'll never see--back, thigh. I tell him I wanted to go get a new tattoo today but I’m stuck at work. He tells me he's dying for another. He tells me about the regrettable tattoo he got when he was drunk on his birthday. Waking up and wondering what he was thinking, and I laugh and tell him that it's a story to tell. Like stupid scars, they still leave good stories. And he mulls this over before he nods in agreement.
There's something about other people who get tattoos that draws me to them. They'll understand something about me no one who doesn't believe in body art ever will. There's the moment you have that perfect idea. I imagine it’s like falling in love with someone--“You just know,” as so many have chosen to describe it to me. Weeks of anticipation, imagining how it will look. People who get tattoos share a strange, but socially acceptable form of, masochism. The slight insanity of willingly inflicting pain on yourself to scar yourself for life. Understanding the commitment you're making.
And it applies to everything in our lives. The sting of easing yourself into a new experience and letting it leave its inevitable mark on your personality, your memories, your neuroses. But more importantly, understanding that getting rid of it--trying to leave that potential mistake behind, righting a regret--takes so much more dedication and pain. Ten sessions of a laser burning searing heat out of your scarred, blistering skin. And even then, they always leave a trace.