Every person is born with a unique tattoo on their body.
Imagine a birth mark, only everyone gets one, and each is unique.
Then imagine that you gain a tattoo every time you fall in love with someone.
That was what my mom told me. I was 7. I had only every seen my own tattoo on my body, and now there was another. I was sacred. I didn’t understand what was going on, what was happening to my body.
She said that I must be falling in love with someone. Maybe a girl at school, she teased. But there wasn’t. And I wasn’t gay, so it wasn’t the tattoo of any of the guys. Where was this tattoo coming from?
It helped having her explain what was going on, but it only raised more questions.
I had seen people all my life with tattoos, but never put the pieces together. My grandma and grandpa only had two tattoos. Which I figured meant that they only ever loved each other. My mom had a few tattoos, ones that didn’t belong to dad. And strangely, she didn’t have one that matched Harold’s.
Did that mean that my mom was with a man she didn’t love?
I didn’t want to ask her that. It seemed like a rude question. So I watched.
I watched to see what tattoos there were, and which weren’t there.
The big problem at first was that the tattoos didn’t always appear in places that weren’t covered with clothes. But a hot day in July helped, and brought a world more problems and questions.
We went to the public pool. The cavalcade of tattoos overwhelmed me. How had I been so blind to what was so obvious?
I finally got a good look at all my mom’s tattoos. Harold’s tattoo wasn’t there. Unless it was somewhere under her swimsuit. The idea of looking grossed me out, but I wanted to know if she really was with a man she didn’t love. And if that was true, I wanted to know why.
And then I saw it.
I saw a girl, about my age on the diving board. She had no tattoos.
There were none on her arms, none on her legs. I knew a guy in my class that had one under his hair, but this girl’s hair looked see through. There was nothing under it.
Where was her tattoo? Everyone was supposed to have one. She had to have one somewhere. It could have been under her swim suit like my mom, but something told me it wasn’t true.
She dove into the pool, tattoo less arms in first. And there were none on her legs. Just pale white skin. She started swimming over to the side to go back to the diving board. I decided that I would ask her about her tattoo.
She dove in two more times before I finally got up enough courage to talk to her. She was climbing up the ladder when I said hello. Then she looked at me. Red eyes gazed up at me.
“Excuse me, please.”
I didn’t realize that I was standing right in the way of her getting out of the pool. I apologized as I stepped aside.
She shot me a strange look, and walked away from the pool towards her towel.
What a weird girl, I thought. I was stunned and confused by all of this. Red eyes, white-ish hair, and no tattoo, how was all of this possible?
I turned to look at her again. Apparently she had been looking at me too. Her gaze dropped and she continued to dry her hair.
I looked back over the pool filled with parents and kids, all marked by their tattoos. I needed to know about my mysterious tattoo. About whether Mom loved Harold. And about this mystery girl and why she didn’t have one.
“Hey, little girl!”
Her head spun around as if I had called her by name.
“Yes you,” I said. “What’s your name?”
“I’m Abigail,” she replied with a small smile.
“Nice. Why don’t you have a tattoo?”
“Excuse me!” She snapped. All trace of the smile was gone.
“Where is your tattoo? Everyone’s got one. See?” I turned around to show her mine. It was a black and white eagle. The head was pointing up my spine towards my head, the wings spread across my shoulders, almost reaching my arms.
I turned around to see that she had returned to her hair drying. She didn’t seem at all interested in my tattoo.
“So, where is yours?” I asked again.
She glared at me, “I don’t have one.”
“What? How come you don’t have one?”
“I was born that way.”
I couldn’t believe it. Everyone was supposed to have one. That’s what my mom had said. Was she wrong? Had she lied to me?
“What about your white hair and your red eyes?” This girl was all kinds of strange. I couldn’t imagine what her explaination would be.
“You are a rude little boy. Go away.” She turned and attempted to ignore me.
There were no tattoos on her back. Maybe she really didn’t have one.
“I’m not rude. Or little. I just want to know stuff.”
She didn’t answer me. She finished drying her hair, and picked up the rest of her stuff. Her nose stuck up high in the air as she walked all the way back to the gate to leave the pool.
I didn’t know what to do.
My body was changing. My mom could be lying to me. Or living with a guy that she didn’t love. And this weird girl with white hair, red eyes and no tattoo wouldn’t answer my questions.
I spend the rest of day wondering and thinking.
Maybe some people were unique because they didn’t have a tattoo. Maybe they were unique because they were so different from everyone else.
I had to find that girl with no tattoo.