Ouroboros Tattoo wasn’t too hard to find. It was nested between a mom & pop version of Hot Topic and a store that sold random garbage under the name of ‘antiques’ as well as an impressive collection of replica swords.
Although it was getting late, the place was still open. The front window was frosted with the logo of the place written on it: It was the name with the O of Ouroboros replaced by a snake eating it’s own tail. I pushed the door open and was immediately assaulted by the smell of incense. The place didn’t have the image that I thought of when I thought of a tattoo shop, the decor was of asian influence, with a large stone Budai (that was the fat guy people thought of as buddha) overlooking the entrance, potted bamboo plants rang along the wall, with pictures of individual pieces plastering the available space. The whole place had a zen vibe to it, right down to the mystical music that came softly out of the speakers.
“Good evening. What can I do for you?” I turned around to see the man behind the counter, a tall handsome and visibly tattooed punk guy with an impressive mohawk of spiky white hair. he rivaled Kaleb in terms of piercing. And just like Kaleb, he wasn’t human...
“Hi, I’m here to see Kaleb.” I declared, feeling sheepish under his piercing stare.
“He’s in the back. I’ll get him.”
The guy left, going to the back, I presumed and a moment later, Kaleb came. “Can I help--” He began speaking before his eyes set on me. “Oh hey. Didn’t think I’d see you again.” He then added, caressing his neck with his right hand. “Did you decide you wanted a piercing?”
Kaleb was dressed simply; just a dark button up shirt with a few talismans hanging from his neck underneath along with dark jeans.
“I guess. To be entirely honestly, I was kind of more hoping for a friend…” I admitted, feeling embarrassed and clamping up.
“The two are no exclusive, why don’t you come with me in the back?” He said.
I followed him, passing behind the counter and going to a room, he opened the door and the change in decor was very startling. Where the front of the place looked like a buddhist temple crossed with a reception desk, the room was far more like a hospital room.
“This is the piercing room.” He explained.
“It’s important to keep clean when piercing skin. All our equipment is sterilized between clients.”
“So… you do tattoos and piercings?”
“Actually just piercings for clients, I only tattoo pork skins until I get better at it. Tom’s been teaching me for months. Although a good deal of my job is cleaning, Tom doesn’t use disposable equipment and it’s the apprentice’s job to take care of it. Anyway, What do you want? Ears, nose, lips, tongue, eyebrow, navel, nipple genitals, I’ve done everything.” He said, getting a pair of medical gloves.
“Just the ears? Start small, I guess…”
“Good thing you came here and not a mall. Their gun should be illegal, you can’t sanitize them correctly and jamming a blunt stud into an ear is an awful and painful method to pierce.” He explained. As he did, he grabbed a hypodermic needle and I shivered a little. “You won’t feel a thing, instead of tearing the skin, the needle will just push it aside. First you’ll just need to choose a stud. They’re either surgical steel or nickel-free gold, so you can’t get an allergic reaction from them.” I settled on the first one, just a simple steel ball. He opened drawer “Sit down please. Just breathe slowly, hold for five second, then exhale.” It wasn’t different from the breathing techniques I’d sometimes used to calm down when my nature came to the surface.
I did and he took a stool, bringing it closer to me. He gently manipulated my head into the right angle. “Hold still.” I did. I felt a finger gently hold my lobe and then he let go. “Turn around.” The same operation was repeated.
“Congratulation, you’re pierced.” He declared.
I was? I felt a small warmth in my ears but not anything that could be described as pain.
“You’ll have to keep them for a few weeks, six preferably, then you can change them. Avoid twisting or playing with them to let the ear heal. Keep them on at all time or the hole will shrink. And for the next three weeks, I wouldn’t go swimming, chlorine or water-borne bacteria can cause an infection.” He opened another drawer and took out a small bag. “It’s non-iodized salt, mix it with water and you can clean your ears. Lollipop?”
The last question made me glare at him.
“More for me then.” He said, sticking a red one in his mouth. “Was that all or do you still want to hang out?”
“Hanging out sounds very… Nice…” I said completely flustered.
“Alright, I can take off early.” He said, putting everything back in it’s place, throwing away the needle and gloves. He left me for a second to tell the other guy, Tom he was leaving, and then he came back with a windbreaker.
“You have anything in mind, Lauren?” He asked. I was surprised he remembered my name.
Kaleb was weird, so cheerful and nice. My guts kept telling me he wasn’t human but I didn’t know what he was. The only thing I knew is that he wasn’t a vampire.
“Not a clue… To be honest you’re the closest thing I have to a friend for the past three years. I’m very rusty on the whole hanging out thing.”
“Well, first things first, I’m starving. What about you?”
“Food sounds great.” I said.
“I know a nice place, if you like Donburi that is.”
“Japanese food is good.” I answered.
It wasn’t too far, the place had a name I couldn’t pronounce or read as it was in Japanese, it was so small one would easily miss it, maybe five yards wide. The inside was nothing but an open plan kitchen with a long counter lined up with stools that went all the way back.
“It’s a bit of a one-dish wonder.” Kaleb explained. “Tom’s the one who introduced me to it. They only do Donburi but there’s a choice of a dozen or so topping.”
Donburi weren’t so much a dish as an oversized rice bowl with meat, vegetable and other toppings in a sweet soy sauce thrown over it. We sat down and ordered quickly as the chef started his work.
“So… Can I ask you a question?”
“Sure.” He said, pouring tea for the both of us that he’d ordered. “What about?”
“Well, last time you told me how you left home but what’s your story with Tom and the Tattoo shop?”
He shrugged. “Not much of a story, I guess, after I left home I just couch surfed for a while, going to illegal parties and the like and I sort of met him, I like how he was, the tattoos and piercings and stuff, I mean it looked kind of really -- Eh, nice.” As he spoke he got a little flustered. This was a guy with a crush if I ever saw one. “Eventually I learned he’d opened a shop and started hanging there. He just sort of started bossing me around, getting to help clean since I wouldn’t go away and it just sort of went from there until I started working there for real. Do you have something new on your side?” He then asked.
“Yeah…” I muttered. Taking a sip of way-too hot tea to get a moment to think. “I sort of made a dumb mistake and might have gotten in trouble with the authorities, now I’m sort of stuck doing community work.” I said, halfway lying.
“Yeah… It was that or risk a trial. Still I managed to get off tonight, and I kind of needed someone to talk to that wasn’t my mom.”
“Well, you came to the right person.” He said, raising his cup.
Soon enough, our orders came and we started stuffing our faces, him with the traditional Eel-bowl while I’d gone with the more popular beef bowl. It might have been an obscure joint, but it was excellent. Most of the people who came in or out were Asian, with the occasional white person. I had a feeling the place catered more to the Asian workers than the tourists, which was nice, Tourists were often loud and obnoxious.
Kaleb and I chatted as we ate, about nothing very important; my love for the stranglers’ Gospel according to the Men in Black (Best. Album. Ever!) and arguing which Sisters of Mercy album was the best. It was nice to talk to someone with similar interests, so many people thought goth was a fashion statement invented by teens of this generation and not a music subculture from the 70’s...
“If you’re still free, I have an idea.” Kaleb said, putting his empty bowl down.
“Yeah?” I said, still behind on eating.
“There’s a bonfire at Land’s end. Want to go?”
“That sounds nice.” I said with a timid smile.