I rush on onto the subway just in time, as the doors close, and I find an empty seat. I set my bag down and take out my airpods, settling in for my commute to a late shift at the blue phoenix.
I love being a tattoo artist. I'm able to use my talent and creativity and bring joy ( and a little pain) to people's lives… and it doesn't hurt that it pays well so I'm able to care for my family.
I look up at the girls sitting across from me. One is asleep, and I try not to laugh as I see her mouth hang open and drool, her hair spread across her face, as she sways back and forth. Her head is leaning onto another girl's shoulder, and she seems to not mind.
The second girl’s attention was on something she was gripping tightly in her hands. It seemed all of her focus was on a card? An ID? I noticed that her hands and forearms were covered in doodles, she was an artist, maybe. There were sunflowers all over one hand and they were really good, they would have made a really cool tattoo because of the style, the flowers were all drawn with only one line.
She must've felt me looking at her, because suddenly she looked up and met my gaze. I should've looked away, I didn't mean to stare, I wasn't trying to be creepy. But I couldn't look away.
I’m paralyzed by her gaze.
Her eyes were an intense golden brown, they reminded me of the eyes of a leopard.
She blinked, and I remembered how to breathe.
I pushed my glasses back up my nose, annoyed that they slipped down and at myself for being awkward.
I tried to focus on something else, maybe look out the window, or pay attention to the song blasting in my airpods, but my gaze kept going back to the girl. She had a beautiful mess of brown curly hair that surrounded her like a mane of a lion. God, eyes like a leopard, a lion's mane of hair, this girl was fierce.
I realized my stop was coming up and I desperately was trying to memorize her. From an artistic angle of course. I wanted to remember the one line drawing of the sunflowers, the detail of the lips drawn on her wrist, the exact color of her eyes that I decided were the color of whisky, her hair since it was an array of different shades of brown and gold, changing like the water in a burn.
I got up and slowly made my way to the exit, I took one last glance at the girl. I realized she was again, looking back at me. She doesn’t look mad, or scared. She looks like she's taking me in, the same way I am of her. With the encouragement that she showed some interest in me, I gave her a small smile and a little wave.
As proud of myself as I was for waving at her, I berated myself as I walked to work.
God! If only I was more confident I would've gotten the courage to ask for her number… or at least her name. I should've talked to her.
No. she's a woman on the subway at night, basically alone. It would've been weird if I approached her.
But she didn't seem angry at me for basically staring at her.
She was looking at me too. Maybe she was just shy like me.
Or maybe she wasn't interested and I just freaked her out.
I sighed in relief as I made it to the blue phoenix, a world renown tattoo parlor. I could focus on work instead of mysterious girls on the subway.
I met her on the subway. It doesn't matter what she thinks anymore.
I'll probably never see her again.
I frowned. I don't know why the thought of never seeing some random girl again would affect me this much.
I walked through the shop, past the front counter where some random guy was flipping through a book of tattoos, and the rooms, where I could hear the buzzing of a tattoo gun. I entered the break room, thankful to see Murtargh leaning against the counter, drinking coffee.
My godfather Murtargh is a famous tattoo artist that has been around forever, and tattooed everyone and seen everything. He started out in Scotland but moved out to NYC to be near my family. He could work wherever he wanted since everyone wanted him. He was a legend. And I want to follow in his footsteps.
Hopefully he can distract me from my thoughts of the girl on the subway.
“Hey Jamie.” he grumbled, his face still in his coffee mug.
“Hey, any crazy customers lately?”i ask, knowing it’d set him off on a tangent about some drunk guy or a girl that wanted an infinity sign. I was not disappointed.
The night continued with a few appointments and walk-ins. With my spare time I couldn't help but draw and sketch leopards with golden eyes. When murtagh made a face at me drawing yet another leopard, I switched to lions with crazy manes, with piercing eyes, or mid roar.
“What's with the animals, Jamie? You don't have a custom piece like that.” Murtargh questioned me.
“Nothing, I’m just inspired I guess.'' I responded.
But I flipped the page over in my sketchbook and began to draw a fairy. Thinking back now, the girl could be one of the fae from the stories I was told as a child with her eyes and pale skin. She looked so out of place on the subway, like she belonged on a dun.
At three in the morning, back on the subway heading home, I pulled out my sketch book, and started drawing a sunflower on the page with the sketch of a fairy. A new idea for a mural that I could spray paint just formed in my head, and there was a plain brick wall near my apartment that has been calling my name.
I smiled as I continued to sketch, thinking about the blank canvas by the skate park, and coincidentally listening to twenty one pilots cover of I can't help falling in love.