Mistakes

I awoke that morning with sandpaper in my eyes. My contacts were still in. My limbs felt like stones. Pain prickled across my skin. I needed water. I looked around my room, which was still in a state of disaster. Clothes littered the floor, my desk was nowhere to be seen under a pile of debris — a glass, a bottle, a number of objects I did not recognize in my haze. I reached for the glass, where a drop of liquid still resided. More. Water. It was agony to wrench my feet from their haven beneath my covers and set them on the floor, where my toes recoiled from the cold. I wanted my bed. But I needed water.

I plodded my way to the sink, a bear after hibernation, and looked at myself in the mirror. Lit by the fluorescents, I saw my face for the first time. It was still caked in makeup. My eyeliner and mascara had smeared themselves down my face in a river of darkness, and my hair seemed to have had a life of its own — sticking out in places, sticking to my face in others. I had slept in clothes more suited to a dancefloor than a bedroom — sequins, earrings, a skirt that could easily have passed for a belt.

My neck and shoulders ached as if I had slept for centuries. My feet screamed at me; they hated heels, especially the morning after. I filled my glass with water, poured it down my throat, filled, poured, then filled a third time. I had drunk too much in the past, but this morning I had reached a level of hangover I had never experienced. Every bone in my body ached. I shuffled back to bed, but as soon as my body touched the mattress, pain scorched through me. I sat back upright, and reached around to touch my spine. My fingers on my skin felt like barbs, or shocks of electricity. I pulled myself back out of my cocoon, walking back to the mirror with my water in hand. Keeping my head forward, I rotated my body to see my back, lifting the hem of my shirt. When I glimpsed the source of my pain, the glass slipped from my fingers, and I let out a yell.

My back was covered in color. A flower here, a heart there, two, three butterflies, an anchor and — God — a woman in the nude. “Fuck,” I whispered, half at the monstrosity of a tattoo, half at myself. The picture stretched across me like a parasite, as if it had grown there overnight. “Fuck!” I yelled, knowing no one would hear me. It leered at me, and seemed to grow with every minute. Is that a monkey? On my shoulder blade, a jack of spades. How could I have ruined so much of my skin in just one night? “Well, that’s it,” I soliloquied. “No more jäger for me.”

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