Blue Elephant

I’m not into tattoos. The first thing I ask a woman who’s interested in taking a relationship further is if she’s got any. If she says ‘yes,’ that’s it. It’s as good as telling me she voted for trump.

“No,” she says as we sit there in her living room. “I did have one once, but it’s gone. I had it removed.”

“Oh, okay.” The ways she says it is sad with long memories. All of a sudden I feel bad about ever saying such a stupid thing. Sometimes I’m an idiot.

“Hey,” I say, “please forget what I said. It’s stupid. I’m okay with it either way,” I say. “I like you too much to worry about silly stuff like that. I’m so sorry.”

“It was right here,” she says, pointing to her upper thigh. “Would you like to see it?”

I look at her questioningly. “It’s removed, you said. How could I see it?”

She lets out as slow breath. “You can see the scar.”

“The scar? You mean the scar is the same shape the tattoo was?”

“Yes,” she says, “well a little. Where they burned it more intensely, it’s harder to see. It wasn’t a perfect removal.”

Now, I’m very curious. For someone who said he was bothered by tattoos, I’m kind of intrigued by this. “You couldn’t go back and have them finish it?”

“No.” Her voice sounds hollow, a long way off.

She can read my expression.

“You do want to see it,” she says. “I can tell. Everyone wants to see it.”

I examine her face, wondering how many everyones there have been. “Well, ah, yes, I would.”

“Come,” she says, getting up, taking my hand, and leading me to the bedroom.

We sit down on the edge of her bed, and she switches on a small table lamp. Unbuttoning her jeans, she slides them off and points. “There,” she says. “See?”

I do, and I can make out a part of it that resembles an elephant’s head. I’m kind of a sucker for elephants, and I ask her, “Is that an elephant?”

“Yes, it was a blue elephant.”

“Can I?” I ask, reaching for it with my index finger.

“Yes,” she says, “everyone wants to touch it.”

Again I wonder how many people she’s talking about. All of a sudden I’m jealous of everyone who has. I carefully place my finger on her thigh and slowly trace what was the blue elephant tattoo. I can feel the bumpiness of the scar tissue.

“I love elephants,” I say, “did I tell you that?”

She shakes her head.

“Truthfully, I’ve never liked tattoos, but,” I trace it again, “this one, what’s left of it, it’s . . .” The word escapes me. “It looks so much like it’s a part of you,” I finally manage. “Why did you have it removed?”

She smiles wistfully, leans against me, her head on my shoulder, and a tear rolls down her cheek. “It’s too long a story,” she whispers, trembling a bit.

I lay my hand on the scar, covering it completely, and I know right then that I’ll be the last person to touch it until the end of time.

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