The high-pitched, whining buzz drowns out the quiet music, just for a few seconds, and I stiffen. I search his face and find nothing but patience in his eyes, an encouraging smile tilting his lips. He raises his brows, a question, my answer is a nod. Satisfaction. That’s what his smile is showing now.
I don’t watch as he smooths his fingers over my skin. Don’t flinch when his bike chain bracelet clinks against my belly bar. I just look at the light blinking in the window, reading the neon words backwards. One of them is his name. It’s a palindrome. No matter which way you look at it, it’s his. I focus on it, face neutral, but I’m gnawing away at the inside of my cheek, concentrating hard on remaining still.
But, oh, the wait is excruciating. I don’t know where he’ll start, I don’t know how much it’s going to hurt. He shifts, taking his chair with him, no longer at my side but my knees. He leans over, I take the quietest, deepest breath I’ve ever taken. Then the heel of his hand presses into my pubic mound and I shudder. I can’t help it. The buzzing falters and I know he’s looking at me, but I force myself not to look back.
After a few thundering heartbeats, the buzzing starts again and I feel a light prickle just above my bikini line. It quickly becomes an itch, then a sting, then it settles into a burn. I can almost feel him concentrating and I wonder. Is he concentrating on his art or his canvas? Does he usually stoop so close to his clients? Can those others feel his warm breath on their thighs? Does he usually breathe them in so deeply?
I know he can smell me when he gasps and the needle penetrates a little too deeply. Eyes closed, chest rising and falling rapidly, I listen to him curse. Paper tears and he dabs at my skin. The dabs get lower. Lower. They become strokes. Closer, closer, too close!
My legs part and I pull them back together with a soft slap. He chuckles and then the machine whirrs to life once more. I feel his arm resting over my thighs, every now and again I’m almost certain I feel a finger brushing over the denim of my shorts.
I’m aching, burning, desperate for relief. I wish I meant from the tattoo, but I don’t. How would it feel if he rested the gun against my labia? What would he do if I lowered my shorts, just so they don’t end up ink splattered, of course? The more I think, the more I ache until, finally, he stops.
He pushes the seam of my jeans once, twice, then laughs roughly as I come undone. He points to my belly and I glance down. My tattoo is complete. His name. It’s a palindrome. No matter which way you look at it, I’m his.