Fiction: Ink

The ink was amateur, as if it had been scratched into his forearm by a blunt paperclip dipped in bubbly, gooey tar. The sequence of numbers meant nothing, but also everything. He’d not been old enough to have the desire to pry to learn why those numbers, and no one was left to ask. And that not knowing meant everything too. The not knowing illustrated the innocence, the helplessness — the lack of choice of the whole damn situation.

The tattoo was elicited quizzical brows, so he wore long sleeves to cover it. He hated it when people stared at it, asked about it, or even looked at it. He didn’t want them to know about where it had come from, where he had come from. But he also did want them to know. He wanted to shout it. Like a fuck you. With defiance on his face.

When wearing long sleeves in the heat, he looked weird. He stumbled over his answer when people asked why. After all these years, he still hadn’t prepared a good answer. He could just get rid of the tattoo so he wouldn’t have to wear long sleeves. But he couldn’t. It was him. Without it, who was he. As much as it seemed like he was free, the lack of choice was still present every moment of every day and night.

All because of the ink.