Masterpiece

Martha sat up in bed. Other days the heat radiating from his skin had drawn her towards it, and thus him, but now it repulsed her. “I can’t sleep”, she repeated.

He did not wake up. He did not wake for the warm damp air, for the mosquitoes or the moths, so he would not wake for her whispers.

She knelt and drew a fingernail down from his shoulder blade, tracking but not touching his spine. Below his skin a nail-thin green line appeared. On the stem buds flowered, extravagant leaves unfurled. Martha smiled. Another jungle line crept down the other bank of his spine. His smooth skin shone.

“My body is a temple, Martha” he had said in the beginning and she had longed to worship there. Now her eyes glittered like the fireflies they had seen. In the morning he would be a masterpiece.

his name inked

To the cliff divers, scars on ankles and legs are badges of honour. The razor-sharp rocks take their toll, a thread of blood through clear water sniffed up by the eels and sea spirits.

Yesterday Marco wavered in his concentration. When he pulls himself back up to the ledge, a vein or a muscle in his neck twitches. Blood flows from his shoulder. Leon 2012. Only part of his oldest tattoo can be seen but his brother is never forgotten. His memory is in Marco’s hot, scarred heart, his name inked into his skin.

My grandad would bunk off school

My grandad would bunk off school and go swimming. When he went home, his mother would taste the salt in his hair and box his ears. He would bend over me as we looked toward the mainland and taste my hair. “You’ve been swimming!” And I would try to dodge the gentle cuffs.

I would try to hold one of his hands in both of mine and study the tattoo on his forearm and the scar he said was caused by a bullet. Then on the way home he would tell me one of the stories I must have known were impossible but believed with all my heart. And still do.

Realistic, real

I thought her tattoo was very realistic. But as people saw the tanned Jesus on her shoulder crying tears of blood, they began to cross themselves. Some knelt. Some hissed as she reached her towel and her friend wiped away the signs that she had scratched herself on the lava rocks as she climbed out of the water. His eyes were blue.

A chalkstripe suit and a Santa hat: Statement parts 1 and 2

I was wearing a chalkstripe suit and a Santa hat, climbing boots and a fluorescent orange bib that read “Yes baby, baby”. I wasn’t comfortable, especially with that comma in the wrong place. I had the feeling that everyone on the tram was looking at me.

I got off at Haymarket, the story of my life, and walked up the hill, past the toilets and the conference centre. By now I was sure that people were looking at me. I was sweating. It was hot for Edinburgh in April.

I crossed the road by the Malaysian takeaway just as the lights turned green. The bus driver revved the motor with what sounded like impatience but gave me a little wave, I think of apology, when I jumped a step and almost tripped over my feet. I walked on. He lived.

Can I have a glass of water, please? Half still half sparkling?

When I turned 34, I realised people weren’t taking much notice of me. So I had my ear tattooed. Yes, I know what you are thinking. People always ask me the same question. How did you decide which ear to tattoo? Well, I found it quite easy, in fact I didn’t have to decide, it just came to me, it was clear, it was obvious, it was balance. I’m left footed and I’m right handed so it had to be my left ear. Otherwise I would have felt unbalanced. I wouldn’t have known which foot to start walking with, or which hand to use to push the shop door open. Except for this morning of course.

It’s pretty unique I think, the shapes and the lines I chose with my skin art consultant – now that’s a job title – graceful, elegant, but perhaps somehow a shade menacing? I think it’s slimming too. Not that I’ve got particularly fat ears but there’s something antelope-like about it now…. Both ears now, that would be ridiculous. It’s a bit like… like rollup cigarettes. One very thin hand-rolled cigarette perched somehow on your bottom lip, near the corner – now that’s what I call cool. Two? No. Definitely not.

I never got on with rollups. It was the gum or the paper or my saliva or something. I once kept one balanced, unlit, on my lip for quite a while but then it somehow stuck there and I tore my lip skin when I peeled it off. And real cigarettes? No, no thank you very much. And I don’t suppose I could smoke in here if I wanted to, could I? No, I appreciate the need for rules. Rules are important, they shape you. But what was I saying? Oh yes, cigarettes. I once met a man who had got the sack from a cigarette factory. I didn’t take to him at all. I wouldn’t smoke. Drinking? Well, that’s a different question. I wouldn’t know where to start.

Perhaps I could have a top up on that glass of water? No ice.