I started writing this at midnight Saturday(or is that Sunday? I never can remember how that works). Didn’t work much on it yesterday. Work at 3am this morning and before 7 had 750 words done and 1300 done before I took a break for the morning.
Then I had a scare and thought I lost all of it when went to work on it this evening and found the screen of doom on my laptop. “HARD DRIVE NOT EXIST”
I still haven’t fixed my laptop but I got lucky that I was working on this on my site and therefore had saved it before I walked away. So, I’m sharing it, cause I am damned glad I didn’t lose it. It’s to be continued, of course…
~ * ~
It’s the buzzing that fucks me up. Needles? Work with them all day. Speedstick just tickles my nose and isopropyl alcohol is just that stuff mom always insisted worked better than anything else.
But the buzzing?
No. Stop. Stop thinking about it.
Second shift is a parasite. No proper sleep, no social life, just drudgery. The only upshot is never having time to spend a paycheck. The bank stacks loan offers in my mailbox, my bills autopay, I live on caffeine and eat whatever the plant cafeteria is serving.
It’s the last clock out before shut down. After a four year cycle the silence felt strange, stranger still with my body stretched thin by months of twelve hours shifts with one day off every thirteen. Metal tinged and pinged and crackled behind me under a new set of watchful eyes. For two weeks the ass end of forever otherwise know as the town of Slindon would enjoy a respite as the furnace lining was replaced. The monster would get a new belly, then we would have to feed it again.
I stand at the gate and stare up, caught in a strange fear of out there when a row of sodium lights pop back on. The cold zings of sound send me staggering into the gravel lot. Without thought I rush to the pools of orange light that protect me from the yawning blackness with its millions of eyes.
Thin, thin, oh so thin, just peek through the skin I’m in.
Onion-, rice-, tissue paper thin, that’s the skin that I am in.
Pierce it, lace it, draw it in, pull me through the skin I’m in…
The chainlink fence with its coils of wicked wire atop hums, a bay door opens at a buzzer, my cell sings the siren song of a motor-driven cam against my hip bone. My nerves are grasping hands.
My motorcycle sits at the end of the lot, nothing but irregular blackholes and reflections in the dark. I slow and my shoulders are tight inside my jacket. I’m not going to make it home tonight. Maybe in the morning. But not tonight. Not with the desperation so near the surface, crawling under my skin, ready to claw.
My thighs tremble as I straddle my bike and lift it off the stand. It settles onto the springs with a quiet groan. Key, turn, kick, rumble; settling on the seat sets my molars to aching. I won’t make it through the night unscathed. I don’t want to.
The wind is playing fingers through my hair and I don’t remember leaving the plant. Street lights wink overhead getting farther apart until they disappear altogether. Home is in the valley down a road to the left that passes quickly into the dark. The reedy voice still singsongs through my mind but I’m ignoring it and not thinking of where I’m going. My bike knows. My body knows.
I know but I won’t say that I do.
There’s no neon in the windows, no flashy lights. There’s a porch with a railing, some comfortable chairs, a table, a run-of-the-mill light. The door is the blue of the Gulf of Mexico, or so she says, and I stare at it for a long time, the motorcycle quiet between my thighs. A beat-up green Ford crouches in the last parking spot and there’s no OPEN sign. It’s just that blue door standing half ajar behind the smudge of the screen, light reaching out from within, and that sound…
Bzzzzzzzz. Bzzz. Bzz. Bzt. I swallow and it’s an effort to loosen my body enough to flip the kickstand down and let go of the grips. It’s an effort to stand and my knees want to fold up when I do. Every inch of me is more than tense, more than tight. The sound drifting from within the studio is the real thing. Not a relative, a simulation, or even a reminder. Fourteen feet away, give or take some inches, a tattoo gun shoves ink into Jamie Delany’s skin.
My feet carry me forward and my stomach flips. Who knew what the man was getting this time. Probably another Ford emblem. He had three. One to cover each of the names of the women he’d tattoo’d on his body. Did he split with Pamela? I’m in the screen door and the smells are assaulting me. Speedstick, alcohol, ink, carbon, disinfectant, incense, and her.
The studio is different. A new couch and a chaise in the front, a screen behind the counter granting privacy to the back, two books of art on a low table, water cooler, coffee machine. If I could think beyond the tightness of my skin and the grasping of my nerves I would try to figure out how long I had pushed this visit off. A piece of art on the wall looks like her work and I search the corners for a signature.
Voices suddenly are coming towards me and I spin. Jamie is nodding, one arm cradling the other with its wrapping of gauze. The woman at his side smiles and pats his shoulder. “Don’t forget to tell Pam I said hi and to stop by anytime,” she walks him to the door and his smile is wide and proud. I watch her stand in the door as the truck coughs to life and the thing is still audible far down the road.
Her fingers trace the cross brace of the screen door, check the latch, touch the light switch. I sway in the middle of her studio, my body so hard and aching there are stars in my peripheral vision. Too long. Always too long.
“You always wait too long, don’t you.” She’s plucking the words from my head and there’s something in her voice that slithers inside me. I close my eyes and static of my own blood pumping through my body drowns everything out. I’m too wound up to jump when her hand closes around my wrist. Her brows pucker when I open mine and she sighs. “Go. Lie down. I’ve got you.”
Behind the screen everything is just as it should be and some of the fear dissipates with the tendrils of myrrh incense. The dentist chair in the corner, the massage table at the back, the stainless steel rolling tool caddy, the hanging cabinet full of everything ink. I know beyond the hand-painted curtain I can find all the things that keep her profession clean and safe as well as the bathroom, a shower, a kitchenette and the door that opens out back to a narrow hidden set of steps. I don’t think many of her customers know about those. I hope not many do. I wonder how different her little cabin is and if her bed is still more comfortable than mine.
I stand in front of the massage table and stare at the worn leather. The silky, buttery soft surface is ink-stained beneath the neatly folded white cotton sheet. It’s the same table she started with way back when. I know because my teeth marks are there in the left corner, a crescent of eight tiny dashes left before I learned to let go. Her fingers touch my lower back and a shiver centipedes down my spine.
“Lie down, Sparks.” The moth wing softness of her voice turns my tongue clumsy-huge. The sheet flutters in my hands as metal on metal fills the space with the tiny music of preparation. All of this should be familiar but its foreign through the hard edge of my want. And suddenly I’m aware that I am hard. Tongue, nips, tummy, even my kón is so so hard between my thighs.
I drop my shirt and jeans and stretch out on the cool cotton that smells of rushing tumbling water and crushed clover. A fan oscillates and the waves of air ripple over me.
Too long, yes. My eyelids droop as the cart rattles close and my panties catch my rush of heat at an electric snap. My hipbones are rocking into the cotton when Ona unhooks my bra.
“Ready, Sparks?” Her fingers trace the ink she’s left under my skin and I’ve no words to answer with.
…to be continued…