Invisible Lines (Part 2)

Invisible Lines

(2)                          {start with Part 1}

Not the usual kind of tears we get here, Paul thought.

The girl, curled up in her crouch on his white tile floor, looked like she was trying to disappear within herself.

“Are you all right?” he asked, knowing the answer, but not why.

“Yes,” her hands muffled her answer. “No.”

She took a deep breath and looked up at him with visible effort.

“I can’t see my calf. That’s where the next to last one was. I thought there’d be no…”

She didn’t look like she was on anything; no smell of alcohol. Just distraught. Jeans too slim to let her pull them up.

“Look, Miss, that shoulder isn’t so bad. It’d take someone who knows to see anything. And if you’re a good healer, I’ll bet even that will fade in time.”

She grabbed at that.

“Can you look – at the calf one?”

It’s not like tonight’s terribly busy or anything, he thought.

“Sure. You’ll probably need to get your leg out of those pants. I have robes,” he added before she could say anything.

She wiped her eyes and nodded.

As he waited for her to change, Paul wondered what this girl- young woman’s story was. He’d done inkless tattoos before. On himself, for practice, sure, but the others he’d done were usually test lines or little circles for skittish customers; to show them what it would be like. Paul knew plenty of artists who wouldn’t do that, but he had little interest in anyone who didn’t really want the ink. Which made him wonder in turn why he was even thinking about saying yes to this frightened girl.

She emerged from the change room clad in one of the robes he kept on hand, her black hair and cinnamon skin, where exposed, showed stark contrasts to the white terrycloth. She perched on the edge of the client’s chair, as if ready to bolt.

The studio lights were plenty bright, but Paul turned his work light on as he motioned her to sit back.

“Relax a little. It’s all right.” It looked like she didn’t believe him, but wanted to. “Right leg?”

She nodded, and he raised the right side split leg of the chair and aimed the light pulling the robe just high enough to expose the shin.


He guided her to turn her leg out so he could see her calf. Smooth, cinnamon skin moved under his fingers.

Ah, yes. This is why you didn’t say no. This skin would take the needle very nicely indeed, ink or no.

Paul looked carefully. The faintest trace of a line here, a swept curve there. Barely anything. Some kind of bird?

“What was it?”

Her skin smelled a bit like ginger, with other spices he couldn’t place. Not at all unpleasant.

“A flying robin. Can you see it?”

“No. I can barely see anything. You got it 6 months ago?”


He set her leg back down and re-covered it.

“Well. It looks like you heal quite well. The shoulder should go the same way.”

She exhaled the breath she’d been holding and sank back into the chair. Then pulled the left robe sleeve up to expose her forearm to him.

“Anything there?”

Paul turned the light, took her arm in his hands and examined.

“No. Not a thing.”

“It was a gothic letter ‘S’?”

“Not anymore.”

She smiled for the first time. That was good.

“I got that nine months ago.”

He chuckled.

“No, you didn’t get it nine months ago.”

She made as if to argue with him, but then realized what he meant, and nodded, though her smile faded as she did.

“So, will you do one for me?”

“I don’t know yet. I still want to know why. I have a guess.”

She waited, expression neutral.

“You get off on it. Either the pain, or the blood. Or both.”

Her breath caught for a moment. Found out. He watched her war with herself. Her body tensed to jump from the chair. On her face, a look of anguish he usually saw only from the needle. It wasn’t unattractive. She sat that way for only a few panicked breaths, but he couldn’t guess how long it felt for her. In the end, she stayed where she was, and nodded. So did he.

“You know, that’s not really too unusual. A lot of people get a rush from the pain. Endorphins, adrenaline, all that, and for some it’s quite a bit more. Though usually they want something to show at the end of it.”

Her expression said she hadn’t known that.

“But that’s the whole deal for you eh? Just pain? Blood?”

She slowly shook her head no. That made some sense. The three places she’d showed him weren’t particularly high-pain areas on most people, after all.

“Then what?”

She didn’t answer, and Paul shrugged. It was enough for now, anyway. To himself he’d already admitted he’d do it. Once he’d had a feel of her skin. Some skin was easier, and far more pleasant to work with, after all. But that wasn’t really why.

“All right,” he said, earning a beaming smile. “On one condition.”

The smile closed up to caution almost instantly. Paul wondered what her… obsession? fetish? – had cost her besides money.

“What?” Warily.

“That you never ask for something like this again without establishing the cred of who you’re asking. This is my shop, and I’m going to show you everything whether you want to see it or not. But if you ask the wrong person, you could get scarred for life. Or an infection, or worse. So, deal?”

“Deal. And thank you.”

“What and where?”

“I want… that stalking Chinese tiger. Here.” She brushed her hand over the left side of her ribcage.

Paul gave a low whistle.

“Well. That’s a big design and a tough place. You look like you don’t have much fat to protect you there. But then, you’re looking for that, yeah?. How about something smaller, though? After a few tens of minutes, you’re going to be largely numb to the pain anyway – unless we were going to go for an all day session which,” he looked at his watch, “would have to be another time.”

She thought for a moment, then said, “How about just the line drawing – no shading or colors. –I’ll still pay for the whole thing.” Her voice had some of its confidence back. Bargaining instead of confessional.

She also must have known full well that the single needle outliner was going to be a rougher ride than the multi-point coloring needles. Does Dad know what you spend his money on? Or is it your money, after all? Paul wondered.

“All right. I’m game. I’m Paul, by the way. This is my shop.”

He extended his hand, and she took it, gingerly.

“I’m Sima.”

The look she gave him was full of gratitude, and, he thought, hunger.

This’ll be interesting, at least.

{Continued in Part 3}

Latest Comments

  1. paul1510 says:

    this is living up to it’s promise.
    I’ve often wondered about the attraction of tattoos, especially those who have lots.
    I have never considered pain and endorphins, interesting.

  2. April says:

    Once again all I can think is wow.
    This is thought provoking, I am a little speechless……
    Anxiously awaiting the next part for sure.


  3. thelustfulliterate says:

    Interesting premise…I have tattoos – and I can definitely see the “rush” aspect – especially if one gets off on pain of some sort. But to do it without the color or the lasting design is very thought-provoking.

    • Monocle says:

      Part of the real test of this story will be if it rings true or false for readers who have either given or received tattoos. I would especially value your thoughts on the coming chapters. I have none, but have tried to educate myself, I’m sure imperfectly.

  4. thelustfulliterate says:

    I’ve also…BTW… humbly nominated your inspiring blog for an award…

    • Monocle says:

      Thank you much! I’ll check with Will and Ximena. It’s an honor to be thought of. We may or may not continue the chain, though. If everybody nominated 15 blogs, we’d run out very quickly!

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