I am fantastic, says Tattoo. But is she really?
Tattoo, that's what we called her.
We never had a chance to get to know her real name. But I am sure it would be pretty, just like the tattoos on her body.
I think people named her "Tattoo" because of that.
I remember her moving into our neighborhood for the first time. It was a sunny day, and I was playing tag with my brother. A large truck halted near our house, and some men unloaded the luggage.
At that moment, I knew that someone new had arrived. I was pretty smart for a seven-year-old girl, but yeah.
Tattoo looked like an angel without wings when she got down from the truck. She was so cool under the hot sun. My sister and I stopped our game, and our jaws dropped when we saw her. She was wearing a white tank top displaying the beautiful art on her arms. But unfortunately, she was wearing jean pants, and I couldn't notice any art in her lower body. But I bet it would be beautiful, just like the rest of her. I found myself smiling at her when she waved her right hand at us while flipping her blonde hair through her other hand. Since I was a shy little girl, I giggled and waved my hands at her before running into our house. I was eager to tell my parents about the angel, but I was deeply disappointed when they told me not to talk to her or see her.
I didn't know why my parents would restrict me from being friendly with a new neighbor. I wanted a friend who was someone older than me. I had enough friends in my school, but they were never this cool. If I had to disobey my parents to befriend angel, I decided to do it. But I did not dare to do it immediately.
I would always watch her while driving past in my school bus. She would have a cup of coffee while enjoying the weather. School was something I loved the most. I got to learn new things and get good marks. But I started to resent it when students in my class started gossiping. Don't get me wrong. I love gossiping but disliked it this time. That's right. The gossip was about the angel in our neighborhood area.
I would feel a rush of anger every time they talked ill of my beautiful neighbor and the art on her body.
They named her 'Tattoo'. But silly girls didn't realize that this name sounded even cooler.
My bedroom window was near Tattoo's bedroom window. I never opened it until the angel moved in. I got a chance to see her dancing to some music in her room. Her blonde hair was free, and she was wearing a face mask. It was a lovely dance, but she was unhappy. It was not easy to observe her emotion through the mask, but I knew what I saw. It looked like she was longing for something. Or someone. And I wondered, what if that someone was me? What if Tattoo was yearning for a friend like me?
So, I leaned towards the window and knocked on her bedroom window. Her reaction was hilarious. Her eyes under the mask went wide but soon softened when she saw me waving at her. She flashed the same smile as the first day and opened her window. The strong fragrance of jasmine blew right across my nose, making it difficult for me to breathe for a few seconds. She thanked me when I complimented her on her dance and labelled me a stalker for looking at her without permission. But I guess she had a point. It was an invasion of her privacy. But since she was an angel, she forgave me, and we became friends by shaking hands.
Since that night, Tattoo and I talked whenever we saw each other. We waved hands and exchanged smiles. Tattoo was an intelligent girl. She always asked about my life and studies. She never told me about herself. I knew we were friends, but I didn't know anything about her.
Friends share stuff, right? But Tattoo never shared anything with me. And I never confronted her about it because I didn't want to lose her. There were times when I glanced at Tattoo's life through her bedroom window. Things were flying around, clothes were hurled across the room, and sometimes vases hit the wall. And when I asked her if she was okay. She would always answer me," I am fantastic." I believed her words and continued to with my routine. Everything was going well. But not in Tattoo's life.
There were times when I didn’t get a chance to see her for several weeks. And when I did see her, she didn't wave to me with the enthusiasm she had exhibited in the past. She never smiled at me as she had done on the first day. She did not follow her dancing routine anymore, and at times I heard her play music which was interspersed with sobs. This song sounded sad, and my seven-year-old heart squeezed tight in pain. And she never opened the bedroom window when I knocked to ask if she was doing okay. If I had known which school she was studying in, I would have gone over and surprised her. But I couldn't because I knew nothing about her.
Time flew by. I didn't see her in the morning having her cup of coffee. I immersed myself in schoolwork to distract myself and stop myself from missing Tattoo. I still hoped every night that she would open the window for me. And that night came when I knocked on it continuously. My heartbeat skipped a beat when I looked at her. Tattoo was not wearing her face mask, and that night I saw what she had kept hidden behind that mask.
Her face was puffy and red, with tears cascading down her cheeks. She had dark circles and bags under her eyes. Her lips were trembling, and she had a bruise on the right side of her face. She looked like she had been hit by a car. She looked so vulnerable and small. I knew she was older to me by several years, but that night she looked small and lost. She tried to cover her legs, and I noticed the wound on her thighs. At that moment, I realized why she always wore jeans. It was to cover the big wound on her inner thighs.. When I looked at her, she smiled and said, "I am fantastic."
I didn't know what to do. I was dumbstruck, and I couldn't utter a single word. She was not doing fantastic. She was in pain. My angel was suffering, and I didn't know how to help her. I thought of telling my parents about her plight, but I knew they would ground me for disobeying the rules. Or worse, they might never allow me to go out. I shut my mouth and heart and decided to talk with Tattoo the next day. I have regretted that moment of procrastination all my life. I shouldn't have waited for a perfect day to speak when I had a chance to do so that night.
I gathered up my courage and knocked on her window the next day. It was Sunday, and I had no school, neither did Tattoo. There was no answer to my repeated knocks. When I tried to knock loudly, I found the window moving gently in the soft breeze. That was strange. Tattoo never kept her windows open at night. I leaned further and pushed open the window some more. It opened enough for me to look inside. All I saw was her beautiful legs hanging in the air with the large wound laughing at me.
I panicked and unknowingly shouted in shock at the image before me. It was like a blur. Everything happened so fast. My parents rushed towards me and called the cops when they realized what I was seeing. People from the neighborhood surrounded Tattoo's house. I thought that was funny because no one showed up at her house when she was alive. Although my parents told me not to come, I was stubborn and went to Tattoo's house. I heard people gossip about angel, whispering incoherent words.
But I didn't focus on them. I was paying attention to Tattoo lying on a stretcher. She looked pale and so lifeless. It looked like she had already left her soul. Some said that she got bullied in her school for her tattoos. And others said that she was in a toxic relationship. But whatever the reasons, I knew she was in pain. She had hurt herself in trying to reduce her mental torture. She would have been alive had people been friends when she was there. Now they mourn for her and talk about her. But Tattoo would never know that. Nor would she come back.
After that incident, we moved out of our house. We changed our neighborhood, school and lives. But one thing never changed. People's behavior. We judge based on appearance but never the inner soul. Tattoo was a beautiful person inside and out. Her body art did not make her a fearful or dangerous person. Every bit of art on her body meant something to her personally. And every bruise and wound on her body proved how strong she was. But I wished she was strong enough to live through it. I had known her only for a few months, and I knew next to nothing about her. But I knew her pain, her suffering, and her torture. And I hope she is living happily up there and shining like the sun.
People called her 'Tattoo', but I will always call her ‘Angel’. An angel without wings.
Gomathi Sridevi is a Sociology graduate and pursuing Masters in Journalism right now. Her passion for writing can be attributed to her childhood habit of reading newspaper everyday. She would describe herself best as a student who is quite interested in applying her learnings on Sociology for the benefit of the society.