Today I am sick. My temperature has shot up and I feel nauseous, but I am surprisingly pleasant and cheerful. I still went to work because I didn’t want to be left home alone, and I spent the day completing the tasks on my checklist and playing Summoners War. A friend tells me that he is hurt because of my come-and-go-as-I-please attitude and says he wishes I wouldn’t just appear and disappear all the time. I apologize and promise to keep in touch.
I was gone the entire past week, traveling for work. I was gone for the first half of the week then went back to the office to disembark and once again embark on another car to take me to the new place. This makes my body ache but work is work, and it’s all in all pretty fun. The house we stayed in is up in the mountains and in the middle of nowhere. I felt panic rising within me the moment I realize that there are statues of Catholic saints everywhere, even inside the bedroom.
At night I struggle with the thought of turning them all to face the wall, but I can’t bring myself to touch them or look at their blank, staring faces so I just turn off the lights, pull the blanket over my head, and wish for sleep to descend quickly.
The next morning, I don’t have cell signal and I expect myself to panic. Instead I just feel a bit bored but also rather relieved, since the responsibility of me responding to people was lifted. Halfway through the day I begin missing him and become gloomy. I was glad when we finally left.
I slept all weekend. I didn’t head home like I usually did and just literally stayed in bed and hibernated.
This week brought rain. Lots of rain. Sidewalks are flooded, people are stranded, skies are angry with bright lightning and roaring thunder. And I love it. I love the way the rain beats down against my transparent umbrella, the way it makes everything clean and glistening again. I love the winds it brings along, the darkness that crowds out the light.
I was waiting in line at the Department of Foreign Affairs when the boy next to me caught my attention. He has taken his black leather jacket off and on his arms and neck are endless tattoos. Vines with thorns and roses. Serpents. Skeletons. Buddha. Names, dates, random words, all in swirls and slashes of dark ink. I lean forward in interest and he holds out his arm to me, and I trace the lines with my fingertips in silent reverence.
“What are their stories?” I ask.
And he tells me all about his life, about the meanings behind each and every tattoo. He tells me that when he leaves the country and leaves everything behind, his tattoos will remind him of everything he had gone through and that way he will never forget.
He gets my notebook and draws on it, and mandala of red and black blooming from the center of the page. He writes down his name and phone number when he finishes the drawing.
When I have to go, he gives me the woven bracelet he’s wearing and tells me to give him a call. I wave and exit the building, knowing that I will never see him again.
I lose my notebook and books on the train, and I don’t even remember his name.
But the tattoos and the stories behind them, I will never forget.
Every afternoon this week, I have been buying iced black tea with honey and lemon. The barista doesn’t even ask what I want anymore. The moment I walk in and sit at my regular table, he starts making it for me. I use the quiet time to open my sketchpad and draw the drawings Instagram and Reddit users have requested from me. I also use this time to write in the notebook I am sending him – a notebook full of letters and little drawings, all straight from the abyss that is the inside of my mind.
The owner’s little daughter sometimes comes and sits and watches me draw. One day she clutched my arm and asked “Am I going to be like you someday?” and I tap her on the nose and smile at her and tell her she’s going to be extraordinary.
Last night I couldn’t sleep. The small amount of rest I got was fragmented and disturbed, broken in intervals by dreams I can’t remember. My throat is dry and parched, my breathing heavy, my heart racing. My senses are hyperaware and all I can think about is satiating my thirst. So I close my eyes and think of relaxing things but my thoughts are drowned by the torrent of the urge I feel. I bite my wrist and it seems to bring me back to my senses, and I spend the rest of the night drifting in and out of sleep.
I’m tired. I want to sleep.