In Case You Were Wondering…

Intense, piercing, throbbing sting. I call

out to my waiting friends. “You can’t run

away,” the big man insists. “You’ll break

the needle.” I fixate my eyes on the flight

of stairs in the dimly lit corner. The man sets

his steady hand on my shoulder and stands.

 

He scuffs across the cement floor to his stands

of stencils and holds up one of three birds. “I call

this one freedom.” He disinfects my back and sets

the stencil. For the first five minutes, my eyes run

with salty tears–the iron needle a flight

arrow infecting my skin. “The pain will soon break,”

 

my killer assures me. “And we can take a break

whenever you want.” But a hero silently stands

the pain. I squint my eyes and contemplate flight.

A rash bubbles on my chest. “Do you need to call

someone?” No need. Hypochondria rashes run

in my family. He finishes the last wing tip in the sets

 

of birds. I see blood, and my head spins. He sets

up an appointment for touch-ups. My friends break

my panicked reverie to ask me if they can run

to an ATM. They’ve been eyeing the stands

of tattoo-inspired shirts displayed in the hall. I call

that they’ll buy one of each. My endorphins take flight

 

as the needle returns to connect the dots. The flight

of innumerable colors swirling through my head sets

me up for a hard fall. I am addicted. I call

into question the choices made this morning and break

down. The man scarring my body stands

six-foot-five. The black injections run

 

over and seep into my back. Helpless, I run

my fingers over the arm of the chair. The flight

of birds on my back is finished. My body now stands

for freedom. The artist regards his work and sets

the price at sixty. I only have a one hundred so I break

it by buying a T-shirt too. It was a good call.

 

That evening I run to the airport, and the plastic sets

against my skin. My flight leaves in an hour without a break–

ten hours. My luggage stands next to me while I wait for my call.

 

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