Thursday, April 15, 2021

Tattoos by Martin Flett

Coffee shop, Wednesday, 2:30 pm

You probably think it’s strange I’m writing to you, especially with this. I could have chosen
anyone, why you?
It doesn’t matter why right now. There are some things I need to say and, if I don’t
say them here, I never will.
A pregnant woman just walked past me. I wonder what she’s thinking about her
unborn child. I doubt she’s thinking about its funeral. More likely she’s planning for the day
it enters the world, not leaves it. Baby-grow colours; whether to breast or bottle-feed,
whether she’ll cope with the labour pains. Or she might just be hoping whoever is in the loo
will hurry up so she can pee.
Whatever the case, there will come a day when her baby dies. Just like the rest of us.
That thought has disturbed me lately. Not the dying per se, but the questions that go with it:
will I be remembered? Did my life matter? Do the people I’ve loved know how much they
meant to me?
A man only in his mid-thirties shouldn’t be thinking of these things. Or maybe I
should? Maybe that’s the point.

Home, Wednesday 3:15 pm

The battery died on my laptop. I walked home with my head down, looking at my phone in
that millennial-zombie sort of way. The various social media apps are always screaming for
attention: people I used to know; people I only met once; people I’ve never met. Do these
‘friends’ know I think of them? Did they ever imagine they’d be the ones I mentioned if I
ever came to write such a note as this?
You were in there, too; your life with your husband and baby. I always see your daily
updates. You look the same as the night I met you: that long blonde hair, always thick and
slightly out of control. Your skin is so pale; I’d think it was the photo filters you use if I hadn’t
seen it for myself that night. Your tattoo was new to me, though. I didn’t see that, etched on
your side until I browsed your profile later.
Maybe I should have made more effort with people, with you.
The heart-shape in the top of my take-away latte is dispersing. I left it too long.
I’ve never understood why people wait so long to tell people they love them, and then I go
and leave it until now to do it myself. In life, the fear of embarrassment, or rejection, is
powerful. But our final words, the ones we leave behind, are the perfect chance to say all
the things we wish we could have. Another friend of mine, lost along the way, used to say:
‘No-one ever died of embarrassment.’ This is true. So here I am, writing out my feelings,
finally.
I’ve never read a suicide note, so forgive me if this one doesn’t adhere to the norm. I
imagine it’s a very personal thing so it’s probably right to do it in a style of my own. It’s why
I’m telling you details about where I am and what’s going on: I want you to know something
of my life, even just a snapshot of the places I go. I think a part of us all yearns to share
ourselves with others. Social media is popular for a reason. Though I suppose there are
always exceptions: those who just want to be alone. I guess it’s our individuality, our
uniqueness, that makes us all so…well...unique; interesting.
I struggled to decide who to write this to. I had a list, a whole list of people who seem to
have stolen part of my soul and taken it away with them.
Sorry; that makes you sound like a horrible person. I don’t mean it that way. But I
dreamt about you last night, and I took it as a sign that you were the one.
I think I’ll take a break. If you were reading this in real-time, it’d be a good cliff-hanger, but I
imagine you’ll skip right on.

Coffee shop, Thursday, 2 pm

I’m in a different coffee shop this time; I’m trying to find one with the right ambience. This
one is empty apart from a man on a Skype call, and a woman sat opposite him. She’s resting
her chin on the hand of her tattooed arm. You’d have liked her.
I met you on a night out with my friend, Si. Do you remember?
‘Mate! Good to see you.’ Si said as he arrived and we shared a manly hug.
‘Drink?’ I asked, gesturing to the bar.
‘Nah, Nikki’s getting me one. You haven’t met her, have you? I’ll introduce you in a
minute.’
We squeezed through a gap in the crowd and sat on the window seat. A TV on the
wall played ‘Blues Brothers’, silently, as a guy with an outrageously bushy beard set up some
PA for the advertised Open Mic.
Si leaned back, resting his elbows on the sill behind him, man-spreading his legs. His
shirt was open at the top, exposing just a tuft of his light-brown chest hair. He exuded
confidence. I wished some would rub off on me.
He pushed himself forward and ran a hand through his dyed-blond hair, re-spiking it
just a little.
‘You gonna play tonight?’ he asked.
‘Already signed up!’ I said.
‘No way! Mate, you’ve got to play Erasure!’
A girl joined us, holding two drinks.
‘Erasure?’ she said. ‘God yes! Do it!’
‘But I don’t know it!’ I said, laughing.
‘Don’t worry about that, we’ll sing along for you,’ said Si. ‘This is Nikki, by the way.’
We smiled at each other.
I thought you two were dating, but no. Though ‘of course’ you’d slept together, Si told me
later.
Of course.
Why have I never had a friend who I’ve ‘of course’ slept with?
You and I didn’t say much more to each other that night. I was nervous about
playing, but it was an encouragement to have support from you two. Si made it onto the
‘list’, too. I barely even know where he lives these days; he has such a large circle of friends.
I’ve still got his number; should I text him?
No, it’s been too long and I doubt I was that important to him. Sorry if that sounds
resentful; it’s not meant to. It’s actually a compliment: people like you and him were on a
pedestal for me and I never wanted to force my friendship onto anyone. I don’t know why
he hung out with me in the first place, and I can’t imagine you would have wanted to either,
even if I had made more effort.

Home, Monday, 11:30 am

I’ll finish this soon, I think. It’s enough to say you made an impression on me. Perhaps not
that night - though I admit I found you attractive - but afterwards, when you added me on
Facebook, and you and your thoughts began appearing on my news feed.
Your ‘thoughts.’ Although no-one ever says what they’re really thinking, only what
they want others to think they’re thinking.
Does anyone really know anyone?
I imagine you would enjoy a conversation about this. From what I’ve read on your
Facebook, we share a distaste for small talk. Perhaps that’s why we said so little when we
met.
I’m tired today. Too late a night; too many beers for a Sunday. In the past I’d have bounced
back, ready to go out that night with Si. I was always in awe of him, flattered he took me
under his wing - sort of literally: I was his wingman for a while. We spent many nights
prowling the town’s bars until way after we should’ve given up. It didn’t matter if it were a
‘school night’; work could take a back seat when there were girls to meet.
Except, I never did meet any. I’d head home alone at some ungodly hour, while he
swaggered off into the night with a hot girl. The next day he’d be on the phone though,
coaching me on how to make things better next time.
These days, all I see of him are his pictures on my feed, just like you. He’s settled
down and our paths never cross. I wonder if he knows how much I miss him.
Would you tell him for me if you speak to him? No... sorry. I shouldn’t ask.
I could go on; there are so many old friends, girlfriends, and colleagues: Louise, Claire, Sally,
Steve, Jessica, James… People always move on.
I don’t know what they’re doing now, or whether they ever think of me. But no
meeting is meaningless: people get tattooed on my heart. If only we’d stayed friends, kept
in touch, maybe then this letter wouldn’t have been necessary.
Perhaps that’s the mark of true friendship: someone who doesn’t need including in a
suicide note.


© Martin Flett

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