Saturday, July 31, 2010


Mary Ann Loo
Decorated – 491 words

            “What’s that on your arm?” she asked.
            “Oh, this?” He laid his left forearm, palm upwards, on the stainless steel table.
            “Yeah,” she said. “It kinda looks like an R.”
            He reached across the table with his right hand, and placed her right index finger on a slightly darker spot half an inch beneath where his upper arm ended. He traced her fingertip over the gradually apparent letters: S-O-R-R-Y. He released her, sat back, and smiled.
            “Did you get a tattoo removed or something?” she asked.
            “Nope,” he said, leaning far back in his squeaky stainless steel chair, his hands clasped behind his head. “I cut myself.”
            “What? Why?”
            He laughed. “Because of a girl.”
            She leaned back, her eyes searching his expression. She reached for her iced coffee and stirred it with the straw, took a sip, and replaced the clear plastic cup on the tabletop. It was a warm summer evening; they’d discussed some politics, exchanged funny stories, and there’d been a little bit of mutual teasing. He’d known her two months now, but previous relationships had been unchartered conversational territory. Until now.
            “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have asked,” she said.
            He laughed again. “It’s alright. It was a long time ago.” He ran his fingers through his thick dark wavy hair, and sat upright, folding his forearms on the table. “Ask away. You know you want to.”
            “Nah, it’s fine.” She seemed flushed, and slightly looked away when his deep blue eyes met her grey ones.
            “Really, it’s cool,” he said. “Had a girlfriend junior year of high school. She was accepted into a London university, we did the long-distance thing and…”
            “How long were you dating?”
            “Almost four years. She wrote me a long letter, said she met someone. We broke up. The end.”
            “Why ‘sorry’?” she asked.
            He shrugged. “Just felt really guilty at the time. I don’t know.”
            “Did it hurt?”
            “Not really.”
            “How did you feel after?”
            “Better somewhat. But I had to cover it up for weeks.”
            “How long ago was this?”
            He leaned back, staring into space. “Um… Three years I think.”
            “Have you had other girlfriends since?”
            “I’ve dated. Nothing serious.”
            “Are you seeing anyone now?”
            He reached for his mug and downed his coffee. “Not really.”
            “Well, I’d like to chat some more, but I really gotta run,” he said, grabbing his backpack from the chair beside him.
            She said, “I’m sorry.”
            He grinned. “Nah, it’s all good. See you in class.”
            He stepped into his one-bedroom apartment, laid his backpack on the parquet floor, and headed straight into the bedroom. He yanked open a drawer, and sifted through its random contents to retrieve a dog-eared poetry book. Inside was a photo of a beautiful green-eyed girl, and a razor blade. His jeans around his knees, he sank to the floor and spread a thin red line over the pale brown ones that haphazardly decorated his inner left thigh.

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