The buzz of the tattoo machine cuts into my brain like an annoying insect on a hot night - Buzzzzzz Buzzzz Buzz Buzz Buzzzzzzzzzzzz – “And…you’re done. Let’s go check it out.” I stand up and walk to the mirror across the small room, lift my arm and look at my first tattoo. The letters are a part of me now, so that I will always remember. It does hurt, a funny pain…sort of buzzing like the machine was, but pain is an old friend, I understand it.
Once I get outside into the sunshine I have an urge to walk to the park two blocks away again. I get out my iPod and listen to Florence + the Machine as I walk fast. I always walk fast and I like the music in my ears, it keeps me safe from the world. Doesn’t matter what music it is, I need it. I think of the last time I came here as I walk along to “Leave my body”; it was a few weeks ago, when the air was still cold and the trees were bare. Now the trees are starting to come alive again with little green buds, sort of like me I think, but without the foliage. I head over to the concrete chess tables where old men spend their days. I like it here because it’s peaceful. I unplug my earphones and listen to birds singing above me. Sitting there, not really thinking of anything in particular, I don’t notice when someone sits down next to me. “What are you thinking?” he asks gently,
“Nothing really,” I say. He nods, puts his arm over the back of the bench and listens with me.
A while later I remember my tattoo and turn to him, “I got this, this morning,” I push up my sleeve and extend my arm so that he can see the words.
“Take these broken wings and learn to fly?” he looks at my arm in surprise for a minute or so, then drops it and asks, “Why did you do this?” his tone is not exactly angry, but not exactly happy either.
“I…well because I like it. It applies to me doesn’t it? That’s what you said….”
He shakes his head slightly and looks at me, “Yes I did, but I never said you should tattoo my words onto your body.” The words are firm and I have a moment of doubt about whether I did the right thing.
“I wanted to remember it forever….wanted to remember you. And just think maybe next time when I look at my arm to…to….you know, I won’t do it because the reminder is right there.”
He sighs and then says “You make a good point and to be honest I’m actually honoured….never thought my words would mean so much to someone.” We look at each other and then we are silent again.
“I must go,” I look at him in mild alarm; I don’t want him to leave. “Hmm….how about we meet again tomorrow?” he asks. I said I would like that a lot, he smiled, and left me.
That night I have nightmares again, things that aren’t clear, things I don’t understand, things I wanted to forget, things I can’t change. I wake up in a cold sweat and before I can think properly I am in the bathroom holding a razor to my wrist. Fear drives me this time. If I hurt myself then the darkness will lift. Adrenalin pumping, I am already anticipating the sweet pain, and the blood. I change my grip on the blade and something catches me eyes….a black bird in flight and the words. I remember what the words mean and I remember him. The blade falls on the bathroom tiles and I start crying.
When I wake up in the morning I am leaning against the tub, still in the bathroom. For a second I forget that I didn’t cut myself and look for the new scar. Then I remember….I stopped. For the first time I stopped. I actually smile down at my arms, proud of what I did, of how strong I was, but then the darkness crashes down on me again and forces out all happiness. It whispers to me “Do it, do it,” making me crave the pain I can inflict. “It will be better afterwards, you know that. Do it, you know you want to…” I fight it because now I know I can, but soon it gets too hard, I get weaker, and I knew I must get away.
“What is my life worth if all I’ve ever done is tried to end it?” I asked desperately, on the verge of tears. He is silent for a minute and then touches my shoulder, “Did I ever tell you that life is like chess?” I shake my head.
“Well we are all the soldiers, some are pawns and they go first, some are knights, some horses, some are kings, some queens.....and one mind, the Lord's mind, is the one who is controlling all of us, playing this game.”
I wasn’t sure what he meant, but he carried on, “All the soldiers are made of the same material, just some are painted black and we call them bad, some are painted white and seem good....but they all have the same material, same wood inside them.”
He asks if I am still with him, I am. He smiles faintly and covers my hand with his, telling me to listen well, “We are jealous of the people who make the move first and move faster, but we shouldn't because they are pawns, they always make the first move, they move first, they do something first, but they are weak. The stronger ones take time to come out to fight and have to move longer distances to fight, have to bear great pain because they are capable of so much more.” Understanding dawns on me and I look at him with wonder in my eyes as he continues, “That's how we all play our roles in this game......it’s all a game of chess.” He puts his arm around my shoulder, gesturing with his free hand, “Black and white represents good times and bad times. Sometimes we fall in black, we have a bad time, but see just beside black we have white. Always day after night.” He pauses, squeezes my shoulder and looks me in the eye, “We just got to keep moving, but we can't move on our own because we are soldiers, so the move is made by Him, the Lord. So let’s trust him.....let him make the wiser decision and move us...”
I stand in front of my bathroom mirror again that night, and even if it seems crazy, I look myself in the eye and say, “No more. I am not a pawn. I am stronger, I can fight. No more.” I pick up my blade and throw it in the bin whispering “No more,” under my breath. I sleep well.
* * *
It is a bright, warm day. There is a breeze which stops it from being uncomfortable. I leave the house and walk down my street at a normal pace, looking at people’s gardens. The last house on the street has beautiful roses growing close to the fence, I quickly snap off a red rose in full bloom and smile as I turn the corner. Once at the park I head straight to the normal place. I sneak up behind him and give him a quick kiss on the cheek, “Hey, you” say with a smile as I sit down next to him.
“Hey, my angel,” he replies and kisses me sweetly. I show him the rose and he raises an eyebrow, “Been stealing again?” he asks and places it in my hair.
I giggle and say, “No, of course not…….” and wink at him.
“You look lovely….I don’t think I’ve ever seen you in a sun dress,”
I blush and shake my head, “Hmm, its new. Thought you might like it.” He smiles in a way that tells me he does. We sit for a while, talking about normal things when suddenly he says, “I am so proud of you, you know? It’s been almost a year now,” he remarks and touches my tattoo lightly, “and look how far you’ve come.” I put my head on his shoulder and think back to who I was, how lost I was, how dark my life was, and how he saved me from myself.
“You know it will never disappear, right?” I ask quietly. “I will always carry a part of it inside me, like I carry the scars….it will always be a fight to some degree.”
I feel him nod, “It’s a part of you my love, and I accept it, I understand it better than most. You know that.” I smile at him and feel utterly happy and at peace. “I’ve been thinking about getting another tattoo,” I say with a smile.
He rolls his eyes, “What now?”
I frown slightly and reply, “A chess piece….” He starts to say something but I cut him off, “I wanted to ask you, which piece do you think I am?”
He sighs in mock helplessness, touches my cheek and whispers so that only I can hear him, “You are nothing less than a queen,” A bird flies overhead as he kisses me and I feel like I have finally learnt to fly with my broken wings.
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