Youngjo turned off the tattoo machine in the first cabin and got up from his seat. He smiled at the girl who had just gotten tattooed the logo of her favorite musical group and took off the latex gloves he had used. He put a piece of plastic on the tattoo so it was not in contact with the air and told her she could get up. After leaving to the studio reception, the girl paid him and left with a smile; she was happy with the tattoo. The brunette returned to the cabin he had used and arranged and cleaned it thoroughly. Hygiene was very important in his work and that is why he allowed himself an hour between each client to clean everything before tattooing again. Afterward, he went back to the reception desk and reviewed his schedule. The next service was a twenty years old boy, called Hwanwoong, and whose design were tree branches that were chained by the wrist. That tattoo attracted his attention, because it wasn’t a very common drawing. He was captivated by the drawing, because it seemed to have a meaning in every millimeter. And he wanted to understand it. But the sound of the studio bell took him out of his thoughts. He pressed the button under his desk to open the door and a shorter boy came in, blond-haired and looking shy and nervous.
“Hello! Welcome to Ravn's Ink. How can I help you? Do you have an appointment?”
"Ehm... I'm Yeo Hwanwoong" he spoke softly, looking at the floor. Yes, he was definitely a shy boy. “I had an appointment at twelve o’clock”
“Sure! Do you bring a large tattoo image or can I use the one you sent me?”
The youngest opened his backpack and took out a sheet size red folder, and from the inside of it he got a handmade drawing of an invisible cylinder surrounded by the branches and leaves of a tree. And underneath it, a phrase: "you can also be reborn as a tree when things go wrong". Youngjo smiled at the phrase and nodded.
“It's very nice” Hwanwoong nodded. “All right. I'm going to copy it on special paper to tattoo it and then I'm with you. You can go to the first cabin and get comfortable, it will not take more than two minutes”
The younger obeyed without saying anything else. Again with his head down, he walked to where the older man had told him and sat down on the stretcher that was already in place. He took off his long-sleeved shirt and left his left arm exposed. With his fingertips he traced the small scars that were going to be invisible in a couple of hours. It was the first time he showed them to someone who was not his psychologist or his parents, and he was worried about what the tattoo artist might think.
“Are you ready? I swear it doesn’t hurt too much. Lie down and rest your arm on that little table”
The brunette's smile, whose hair covered his forehead and hid a piercing on his right eyebrow, caused Hwanwoong to relax a little more. He lay down and rested his arm where the older one had told him, and shuddered when the disinfectant gel touched his skin, because of the cold temperature of it. Later, Youngjo picked up a bottle of black ink, reloaded the pencil from the tattoo machine, and pasted the paper on which he had printed the drawing on the blond's shoulder.
“Do you want the tattoo to be there?” The tattooist noticed that the blond's wrist was full of small horizontal scars, with a separation between them. “Oh... I'm sure it's going to look very nice. Your arm is the trunk and the branches cling to it. You want the war wounds to be covered, right?”
“War wounds?” Hwanwoong asked, with a raised eyebrow.
“Yeah! Every scar is a wound of war, because it indicates that we have overcome something”
The blonde couldn’t avoid a small smile from appearing on his lips. People who unwittingly saw his scars looked at him with regret and lamented about it. The brunette, however, had mentioned them as something good, as a show of strength.
“I think you're right”
Youngjo smiled too, nodded in response and turned on the tattoo machine, as he was ready to begin the tattoo. With two of his fingers he held the paper on the skin of Hwanwoong's arm so that it would not move, with the branches of the drawing covering those scars, and began to draw the tattoo.
“It might hurt a little, but I'm sure you're strong and you can tolerate it”
The first few times he noticed how the needle of the machine pierced his skin to inject the ink hurt him so much that a small tear escaped from his right eye. However, when he was already wearing the first tattooed branch, he felt that he had become accustomed to the pain. He watched how the tattoo artist handled his skin very carefully and was totally focused on the drawing. He didn’t want to lose concentration and ruin something as valuable as a tattoo which was meant to hide scars.
“You know, Hwanwoong? I think you are a very strong person”
“Because I'm tolerating the pain and I'm not complaining?”
Both boys laughed at once. Youngjo shook his head and wiped off the remaining ink from the second branch he had tattooed. It was longer than the previous one and from it small leaves began to be born. The farthest scars from his wrist had already been completely hidden.
“That's also a good reason, yes” He continued with the tattoo. “Can I ask you something?”
“Have you done drawn the tattoo? Because it is beautiful. I love the outline and the shape of the branches”
“Yes... someday I would like to study Illustration at the National University of Arts. It is the best University on Korea, you know? But it's very difficult to being accepted and... I'm talking too much, I’m sorry”
“No, no, it’s okay, I want to get to know you, so keep talking. Have you been drawing for a long time, then?”
Three and a half hours had passed when the tattoo was finished. The cherry branches —as Hwanwoong had told him— were intertwined in his left arm and, through them, passed the sentence that was placed under the drawing before. The brunette had suggested the blonde to put it like this to give more importance to the words; and the younger didn’t refuse to do so: he had loved the idea. Having the plastic protecting his tattoo already, he stared at it with a huge smile on his face. It was exactly what he wanted, to cover his scars and symbolize life, something new that grows and will be forever alive.
“Are you happy with the tattoo?
“A lot... thank you so much” The shorter one looked at the tattooist without erasing his smile. “It's exactly what I wanted and how I had imagined it”
“I'm glad, seriously. By the way…” This time it was the tattoo artist who took a while to talk, because his self-confidence seemed to have flown through the window. “My name is Youngjo”
“I ... well, you already know my name” Both boys laughed at the same time. “Nice to meet you”
The two boys returned together to the studio reception. The wall clock showed it was almost four thirty in the afternoon. The older man sat in his seat on the other side of the counter, typed a few things into the computer and printed two papers that he handed to Hwanwoong.
“Look, these are the recommendations for the tattoo care, right?” He pointed at the first paper. “And this is a prescription for you to order the ointment at the pharmacy. You have to put it on every time you wash the tattoo, okay?”
The shorter one nodded to the instructions of the taller one and took out the folder of his backpack again. He saved there the two pages so that they would not fold and then he took out his wallet. He extended his credit card to pay for the tattoo before Youngjo told him since they already had agreed the price. Using his payment terminal, the tattooist used the younger's blue card to get paid by the service and returned it. Then he pulled out a small notebook and wrote a phone number on it.
“That's my personal number. Text me if you need to talk or anything, okay?”
That night, when they both looked at the clock for the first time after all the time they had been texting through KakaoTalk, they noticed that it was four in the morning. But they didn’t mind.
The brunette, who now had an H tattooed behind his ear and a new piercing on the side of his lower lip, stopped cutting the vegetables on the counter and turned around when he heard the younger. Hwanwoong had entered the kitchen with a huge smile and a piece of paper in his hands, and he threw himself into his boyfriend’s arms and hugged him tightly.
“What's wrong, little one?”
“They accepted me! I'm an Illustration student!”
“That's wonderful, baby!”
The smile in the older was so wide that the shorter one could swear that his jaw would hurt when his mouth returned to its normal state, but the tattooist did not care. It made him very happy that finally his boyfriend, after so many years of saving and practicing, had fulfilled his dream of studying Illustration in one of the most prestigious art schools in Seoul.
“I'm very happy, seriously. You deserve it so much”
“Thank you, honey”
And when Hwanwoong thanked him, he really did, because the shorter one was pretty sure that without the help and encouragement of the tattooist, the first to speak of his wounds as a symbol of strength, he wouldn’t have done it. At night, Youngjo took his boyfriend on a date, and after they had dinner he took a small velvet box out of his pocket, making the status of their relationship go a step further.