promises of forever

I flipped through a book of lamented photographs of tattoos. Loud base metal thundered through the speakers that were hanging on almost every corner. Stevie was at the counter talking to some guy with blue hair about butterflies versus flowers—a place her and I have been stuck since we decided to make best friend tattoos (something we have been talking about since we were twelve) an item on our list of must-dos before New York.

Here we were, the big day, and we still weren’t sure what the perfect thing was. We had been in the waiting room for close to two hours.

Finally, a girl with thick eyeliner and a fox sweater said, “We have this apprentice about to start a shift. He’s like the tattoo whisperer.”

“I like the sound of that,” Stevie said as she plopped down on the leather sofa with books of tattoo inspiration.

“I’ll send him out where he gets here,” she said with a professional smile.

I said thank you as Stevie began to flip furiously through the pages in an oversized binder.

I feel like I almost know what it is,” Stevie said.

“I have that sense too.” Benny came out from the striped curtain all the staff had been disappearing behind. His hair poked out of a striped beanie. A dark green thermal hugged his slender body. A wide smile spread across Benny’s face when he saw me. “You two must be the high school girls that are throwing off the whole schedule, and it’s on Saturday out of all days.”

“You must be the empath with infinite tattoo wisdom,” I responded.

“Yep, that’s me.” He crossed his arms and jokingly puffed out his chest.

“You are everywhere these days,” I said. I felt a smile form on my face, but I couldn’t do anything about it.

“Hello Benjamin,” Stevie said.

“Hi, Stevie, how’s it going?”

“It will be better once I figured out the perfect tattoo for us.”

“Don’t you mean we figure out?” I corrected.

“Right,” Stevie laughed.

“Catch me up, what have you been thinking about?” Benny sat down on the sofa next to me. I crossed my arms. “You don’t to do this,” I say quickly.

“It’s what I do,” Benny leaned back in the sofa which annoyed me. Why did he have to be here?

“Yeah Sam, it is his job, and we need the help.”

“I got this,” Benny smiled. He slid a pencil from behind his ear and leaned forward. Benny then pulled a blank piece of paper from the back of one of the binders Stevie and had brought over. “Tell me five things about your basic idea,” Benny said his eyes on the blank piece of paper.

“Flowers,” Stevie said, “because they grow.”

“Butterflies fly,” I added. Benny started drawing, but I wasn’t able to get a good look around his hunched posture—probably something he did purposefully.

“Three more things,” Benny muttered.

“A journey,” Stevie said.

“Forever,” I added.

“Friendship,” we both said at the same time, then smiled at each other in response to our undeniable cuteness.

Benny picked up the paper, stood up and mumbled, “Be right back.” Then Benny too disappeared behind the curtain. Stevie and I sat there and waited for what felt like forever, but according to the clock, it was only seven minutes. Steve’s jaw was clenched, or her knees bounced up and down. I just leaned back in the sofa. I used the time to steal a few moments to ponder. Just a week ago Benny was somebody that went to the same places I did now, all of the sudden, he was everywhere. Without me making the decision he had become a part of my life. I couldn’t figure out why the universe thought I needed a Benny in my life.

Benny pushed through the curtain and laid a picture down on the glass table infant of us. A pencil sketch of seeds breaking away from a dandelion. Leading all the seeds were two very small butterflies with linked wings.”

“Wow! You are gifted!” Stevie coed.

I looked at Benny. His mouth was a smooth, subtle smile. “It’s perfect,” is all I said.

Stevie squalled which made Benny and I both laughed. That small moment might always be one of my favorite. Life has tiny little perfect moments that fit into pockets for good reason.

***

“Absolute perfection!” Stevie said as she placed a tiara she constructed of glow bands that we picked up from Dollar store after our tattoos. The lake was so different at night with an empty parking lot, compared to the hectic line for spots the stretched to the main road. An eery, almost natural quite hung over the large lake that say proudly in the middle of some of the city’s trendiest neighborhoods. When the sun is up, it’s crawling with tourists and moms toting around toddlers and fashionable diaper bags. Right now, it felt the whole park belonged to us.

“I gotta say that, unfortunately, I’m impressed by that,” Jared said, who to my surprise, actually showed up and he was fairly decent to be around.

“I’m talented Jared, what can I say,” Stevie smiled. She was also being nice. I made her promise to be when we were shopping for glow bands. She was wearing one of her tiara creations as well. Pike, as usual, did get the word cut for our little event pretty good. We had a group of seventeen so far, and people continued to show up. We were gathering under the trees near the white brick building that used to be a community center but was now home to many more private programs. There was a point when you couldn’t come to the park without being comforted about supporting one side or another.

Jared gently grabs my hand and intertwined his fingers with mine.

“Give everyone ten more minutes to show up before we start. I’m still expecting a couple more,” Pike said rolling over to us.

“Will do chief,” I said to him.

Pike smiled at me.

“This is really cool, thanks for helping us put this together,” I said to Pike as I look around at all the others or rollerblades or skates. Everyone has, at least, ten glow bands. Even Jared had a few.

“Of course, it’s what I do,” Pike said as he slide his arm around Stevie.

“It looks cooler than I imagined it would,” Jared added.

I smiled at him. I was enjoying him next to me, really enjoying him being a part of what I as doing.

He saw me smiled and gave me one back.

“You should come to more of these things,” Pike added, “These girls are awesome at dreaming this stuff up. They have made the last two years of my life more fun,” Pike said this as a glimmer of sadness passed by his face.

“Well, our ideas wouldn’t be anything with your help on the execution end of it,” Stevie said. She was beaming at him which made me smile.

Jared held my hand tighter, “How many laps are gonna do around the lake?” He asked looking at Stevie and Pike.

“Just one,” Stevie said as she tinkered with a glow band around her wrist.

“Why only one?” Jared asked. He was really trying.

“Because after one entire time around a lot of us going to be tired and this only the start of the night,” Stevie said matter-of-factly.

“Oh, Benny’s here, I’ll be right back,” Pike said as he rolled toward Benny.

My stomach tightened.

“Isn’t there the guy who you were with at the party?” Jared asked me his face was still relaxed.

“Yeah,” I said carefully.

“I didn’t know he was a friend of Pike’s,” Jared said in a surprised and easy voice.

I stayed silent and made eye contact with Stevie. “It’s fairly new,” she explained to Jared but looked at me. “Pike has been taking video of Benny’ and some other guys play the guitar,” Stevie continued, “They were put on a senior project together.”

Jared looks at me, “You should have said something,” Jared said to me.

I nodded. How that changed anything at all, I didn’t know. But, I wasn’t going to press the subject. Tonight was going well, and I wanted it to continue to do so.

I watched as Pike handed Benny the couple guys he was with a few handfuls of glow bands. As Pike started to roll back toward Stevie, Jared, and I, Benny and I caught each other’s eyes. A few unwanted butterflies crept into my stomach. He smiled at me and gave me a small wave; he barely took his hand from his sides. I couldn’t help but smile back. Benny looked over at Jared, and then he brought his eyes back to me. I could see some disappointed breeze past his face. He smiled at me again, then turned back to his friends. I couldn’t help but feel a glimmer of disappointment myself. I shook my head in hopes if shaking it off. My eyes were still on him, even though I could only see his back. I decided that I needed to ignore him and enjoy my boyfriend, who was actually here and being nice to my friends and me.

“All right everyone!” Pike shouted as to reach us. “We are gonna start. The goal is to stay in the group. There will be booze and fun back at my place after.”

“Are you going to Pikes?” Stevie asked in a whisper.

“No, Jared and I are gonna meet some of his friends at this music warehouse thing.”

“Cool,” was all Stevie said. No complaining and no jabs against Jared or how pretentious she thinks he is.

“Ready. Set. Roll!” Pike cheered.

And we were off. Jared continued to hold my hand as we started to skate. Stevie was giggling at something Pike was saying on the other side of me. The coolness from the outside, night air carried my hair and brushed past the bare skin of my neck. The sound of twenty pairs of skate wheels made a loud and low rumble. All glow bands that hung on everyone lit our path in rainbow lights. Stevie and pike on one side and Jared on the other made a peacefulness that I haven’t felt in awhile settled into my gut. My world didn’t feel split or temporary; it just felt right.

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