I enter the club with my friends. I’m aware that they’re drunk and everything is moving very fast but I don’t think I’m drunk. Maybe I’m tipsy, but it’s always hard to tell. There are people sat at American-diner style tables eating greasy food, the kind that comes in paper and baskets and drips all the way down your hands. It’s busy, we sure ain’t going to find somewhere to sit down.
Suddenly I realise that I can’t see anybody who is not eating, did I misjudge the situation? Are we going out for a meal? I can’t remember how I got here.
I’m leading the group around in hope of somewhere to sit, but I’m panicking inside. Do they want to sit down? I try asking. My voice is drowned out by a million people talking with their mouth open. It doesn’t take long until we reach an open-space. It’s big, but not fancy. It’s more school hall than club, and I squint in response to the sharp light. People are stood around chatting to each other and I figure this makes a good place to stop.
A guy with short, spiked blonde hair and round metal rimmed glasses stands at the front of the room, waiting for something. I recognise him, but I don’t wish to disclose it to the rest of my group. It doesn’t really feel like a moment for introductions. Instead, I lead the group over to where he is. People are rolling out yoga mats, mostly blue or yellow.
Nick stretches with his right arm reaching to the wall on the left side and his left loosely sitting on his hipbones. The rest of the room follow his instruction. He wears a loose vest that shows just how underweight he is. I remember what his ribs looked like. I remember the sharp edge of his hipbones against mine.
I won’t let him see that I recognise him, he can acknowledge me if he wants to. I plant my feet firmly at the front of the yoga class I appear to have joined. I’m directly in front of him. He changes direction, now bringing his left arm up above his head. I mirror his image, but I’m not watching his arms, I’m watching his face. He looks at me. I don’t look away.
The yoga class is a blur, I think I fall over at some point, thinking how stupid this class is in this stupid weird-ass club. I don’t have a yoga mat, so maybe my fall hurts, but I couldn’t tell you.
The next thing I remember is sitting on the stairs on the club outside. Beside Nick. The streets are dark like it’s been raining recently and there’s a large amount of smashed glass beneath our feet. I notice he is heavily tattooed, which doesn’t surprise me. I think I mention this, but by this point I’m definitely drunk, so maybe it was only a thought.
We sit there, in the damp dark. In silence. A nice one, like we’re reflecting on this whole meeting again thing, or maybe the state of the street, or maybe mulling on a childhood memory. I think about how it feels lying awake in bed at night. I think about how it felt to talk him out of suicide every night. A bedtime story of the fucked-up. I get a comfort from that memory. Maybe that’s wrong, but doesn’t it feel safe to be needed?
Nick reaches out, and I think he’s going to hold my hand, and I am unsure what to do, so recoil a little. But he doesn’t try and hold my hand. Instead, he places his forearm face up over the top of mine. Not touching, but he must only be millimetres away. He has a tattoo there. I think he’s showing me. It’s a circle, almost like a picture frame with nothing inside. It’s black and I can’t really tell what it’s made up of. At first glance I think it’s roses, but it could also be barbed wire. Nick’s skin is pale, almost translucent, and populated by soldiers, standing up to attention in the cold. Or maybe it’s me that makes his hair stand on end. I didn’t realise he was smoking until now, when he makes a point of taking a long drag. Then he presses his cigarette end into his arm. In the middle of the picture frame. He doesn’t flinch. I do. I feel the burn in my fore arm. I take his hand. He understands. He understands the thoughts I was having about the cold wet street and my cold lonely flat. His skin has buckled under the cigarette burn, I bring it closer to my face to see. That’s when I see the edges to the tattoo, about a centimetre from where the actual vines twist.
His tattoos are fake. They’re transferable tattoos, and the edges have started to peel away from his skin. I notice his face has changed too. He grew up, he grew older. Of course, he’s changed. I think maybe it’s the glasses, or his cheekbones, but then I think I could be confusing those with somebody else. He’s not the same person and neither am I. I’m not sure how to feel. I close my eyes.
Picture Source: Kurt Jackson