A Tattoo Artist - A Husband - An Alpha Male Who Makes No Excuses
“I love you, but I’m no longer in love with you, Devin.”
The words echo off the hardwood floor I had paid to have put in our home, they bounce off the walls Nina and I had painstakingly painted yellow. I remember the argument we got into about the trim color; an argument I won by tackling her to the, then carpeted, floor and fucking her into submission. What had happened to that couple? When had that changed?
“I don’t even know what to say.” And I didn’t. Shock and something akin to anger boil in my gut. I want to scream and punch, ask what the fuck is wrong with her, but those words won’t come. I can’t push them past my lips.
She sighs. “That’s precisely the problem, Devin; you never know what to say. You never know when you’re going to be home, you never know what your schedule is going to be. I can’t do this. When was the last time we had sex? When was the last time you told me that you love me? Devin, I’m done.”
There it is again. My real name. For the past seven years I’ve been Sketch. Through my apprenticeship and now at my own shop. Most people don’t even know my real fuckin’ name, and here she’s used it twice in one conversation.
“You’re done?” I sound like a parrot, but I can’t help it. This shit is coming out of left field for me. I’m standing here like a chump, holding a bouquet of flowers, a bottle of wine, and a box of chocolates. Following her out to the driveway, I watch as she walks awkwardly, holding duffel bags in each arm.
“Yeah, Devin. Done.” She rolls her eyes and continues putting her stuff in the car. The car, I might add, I bought her with the first profit that my shop turned.
“Do you even see what I’m holding, Nina?” I ask, thrusting my hands towards her.
“It’s too late,” she tells me, finally showing some emotion.
There are tears in her eyes and I wonder why. It’s not like I’m the one leaving her. I still have no idea where any of this is coming from. “Too late? This is me telling you that I finally have the time. Babe, we’re gonna live our lives.”
“I’ve been living, Devin.” She stomps her foot. “It’s you who’s had your head up your ass at that goddamn tattoo shop.”
That’s it. My stomach drops, and I see for the first time the ungrateful bitch she’s become. I feel anger overtake me. “That goddamn tattoo shop has provided you with a good life, Nina,” I yell.
Throwing the stuff down I have in my hands, I let it smash into a million pieces and watch it roll towards the car. Just like my life, it’s a jumbled up mess of shattered hopes and a river full of broken dreams.
*Six Months Later*
The pounding of my feet against the pavement is a constant I’ve had in my life for the past six months. The rubber soles of my shoes give as my legs eat up the miles. I breathe deeply and calmly, allowing myself to find my rhythm. In my ears, Godsmack pierces my quiet with heavy drums and blistering guitars. I mouth the words as I continue on my now three-mile journey.
When I first started this route six months prior, it had been because I was so pissed off, because I was so crippled by the grief of my wife leaving me. Today, I do it because it makes me feel good about myself.
Turning into the driveway and running towards the garage, I run around the back and go in through the kitchen, off the deck. So far Nina hasn’t asked for the house, and I don’t think she will. It’s too much upkeep for her, and I’ve made a few changes. Falling into that black hole wasn’t an option, and it still isn’t.
Gone is the cheery yellow that had once been our living room color; in its place is a neutral gray. A new TV is now on the wall, and the frilly couch she had picked out is gone too. Now, there’s a sectional that allows me to kick back, relax, and play games, watch porn, whatever the case may be.
I’m breathing heavily as I walk back into the kitchen, open the refrigerator door, and grab a bottle of water. Popping the top, I lift the mouth to my own and drain it, gulping down the cool liquid before I put the empty bottle to my forehead. Grabbing my cell phone off the counter, I see that I’ve missed a call and have a voicemail. Dialing, I put the phone on speaker as I walk towards the bedroom where the master bath is, taking off my sweaty clothes.
“Hey, Devin, I know you don’t recognize this number, but I had to get a new phone since you cut me off our plan.”
It’s the voice of my soon-to-be ex-wife. I grin to myself at the thought of removing her from our cell phone plan. She left me high and dry, and as petty as it sounds, it gives me a little thrill to do the same to her.
“I have a few things at the house I would like to come and get,” she is saying. “Please either text me or call me back with a time that’s convenient for you.”
So proper. Even when we first started dating, we hadn’t been that proper. I swallow roughly, realizing how far the two of us had drifted from one another. It isn’t like I hadn’t realized it within two weeks after she left, but this is a stark reminder. Glancing at the clock, I see I only have an hour to take a shower and get to the shop. Grabbing my phone, I think long and hard about the text I want to send her.
I work today. Shop closes at ten, be here at ten-thirty?
I don’t hold much hope she will text me back, but I carry my phone with me to the bathroom anyway, putting it on the counter as I let the water warm up. Just before I step under the spray, my text beeps. Nina.
Typical. Put the shop first. I’ll see you at ten-thirty.
I look up as Jackie, my front counter girl, welcomes me into my shop, also called Sketch. This place, it’s been my home, my salvation, my reason for living for the last six months. I love everything here.
“You’re here early,” I tell her. Usually I’m the first one here, and she’s dragging ass through the door with five minutes to spare.
Jackie scrunches her nose at me. “I had an early class. Figured for once I would be early.”
"I'm gonna head over to the coffee shop before I get started. I need caffeine,” I tell her as I do a quick sweep of the shop. It’s a habit I have, making sure everything is in its place. I have worked my ass off to have it. I want to make sure I keep it.
“Can you grab me something too?” she asks, bending over to pull money out of her purse.
There’s a reason Jackie is my front counter girl. She’s built for sin, and she dresses for it too. There have been a few times, especially in the last few weeks, when she’s looked at me like she’s interested, but I won’t do that. I value my shop, and there’s still too much to deal with when it comes to Nina.
“Yeah, whatever you want, I got it,” I tell her.
“Thanks.” She gives me a flirty smile. “Do you want the agenda?”
I always want the agenda. Being on top of things here allows me to forget that my personal life has gone to shit. “Hit me.”
She flips through the paper appointment book we have as a backup to our computer system. “First appointment is a cover up, and then you’ve blocked out five hours for some dude named Arson?”
I laugh. “He’s a friend of mine, in an MC. It’s a memorial piece, and it’s going to take a while.”
“Is Arson his real name?”
“If he told you his real name, he’d have to kill you, Jackie.” I level her with a look that makes her take a step back.
“Some of the guys you know, Sketch, I wonder how you’ve made it this far in life without dying.”
I shake my head at her as I make my way out of the shop towards Starbucks before turning around and yelling at her over my shoulder. “Text me your drink order.”
As soon as I’m out of the shop, I think about the last six months and wonder how the fuck I made it this far without dying too.
Coming January 21st, 2016!!!