“What does your tattoo mean?” she asked shyly. She was observing my lower left arm with interest. To her, it looked like an unfinished circle with some kind of Chinese symbol in it. Her head turned upward and she looked at me with big blue eyes, full of wonderment and a hint of nervosity.
“It’s the Japanese symbol for water. And around it is a zen-circle,” I replied. I guess my voice sounded a bit harsh because she made a step back and looked at me in a startled manner. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to sound annoyed. It’s just that I’ve been asked that question so many times already.” With these words, I pulled the sleeve of my sweater back over my arm and turned away. I had only made two steps when I heard her voice again.
“Oh, because you can’t live without water, right?” She laughed heartily. That fucking joke. Everyone made it after I explained what my tattoo means. And I had actually had hope for her.
“Exactly,” I answered without turning my head.
She was still laughing. Slowly, the joy over her by then obsolete joke was fading and she calmed herself. “No, but seriously. Why water?” she asked with sincere interest.
“It’s personal,” I said while walking away.
A couple of weeks later, as I was making my way through the city, I heard a familiar voice. “Hey, water boy, hold up.”
Godfuckingdammit. Her again. I stopped walking and turned around. There she stood. Scrutinizing me with her big blue eyes. Huh, she’s pretty. I could see her eyes quickly glancing at my left arm but she composed herself and said: “Hello.”
“Hi,” I answered dryly.
“Whatchu up to?” She had her hands folded in front of her stomach and was bobbing up and down on her feet. It was making me nervous. Overall, she looked like a little girl. I really wasn’t in the mood for talking but with the weight of western politeness on my shoulders, I forced myself to utter some words:
“I’m on my way to get coffee.”
“Oh, is this an invitation?” she asked with a cheeky smile.
It’s really not. “Sure,” I said, resuming to walk.
“What’s your name, by the way?” I asked when she caught up to me. I witnessed her face taking on various expressions. First confusion, then a slight hint of anger and finally realization.
“Huh, I guess I never told you,” she said astonished. “I’m Cindy.”
“My name is…” I was interrupted.
“I know what your name is, you dummy, you told me already.”
“I guess I did,” I answered. We spent the rest of our short walk in silence. When Cindy and I had drunk our coffees, I paid and we said our goodbyes. She’s actually quite nice.
During the following two weeks, we met up quite a lot and I actually began to like her. And, well, she liked me too. So, the inevitable happened. On a rainy night after dinner, we kissed. It was cheesy as fuck, like a movie scene: movies, dinner, rain, kiss. Absolutely fantastic. We spent two great months together and hoped it would hold on for much longer.
However, one day when she was over at my house, I was not being very talkative.
“Are you okay?” she asked with a concerned undertone.
“Yes.” That’s a lie. Shut up. Do I really want this? Shut up. What if I don’t like her as much as she likes me? Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!
For two weeks, I kept lying, telling her that everything was alright. I must have put her through hell. She had to live in uncertainty for such a long time. I finally decided that I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to end it for the sake of us both. The lies had to stop.
So, I told her to meet me somewhere quiet where we could talk. I guess she already knew what was going on. “I have never told you what my tattoo really means,” I said calmly.
“Huh?” she was visibly confused about that opening statement.
“Well, let me explain. Water is my element. Not because of this whole zodiac sign bullshit. I have chosen my element based on the way I deal with bad stuff. Now, imagine a rock, that’s some shitty thing that happened to me. Picture this rock in the middle of a river. The water is flexible, adaptable, it flows around the rock and continues its way. The water is me. With time, the water will have turned the big rock into nothing but sand. That’s the good way of dealing with the past. And I sometimes manage to do that. However, more often than not, the water comes rushing down so fast that it take the rock with it. And wherever the water goes, the rock will be there too, somewhere in the dark, scary depths. When this happens, I can’t forget the past. It follows me wherever I go. And sometimes it gets so huge that it completely stops me from keeping on going forward. I guess you might say that I’m drowning in myself at these times.
Now, I have two choices: I can make you into a rock that’s slowly turning into sand. Or we can keep going and eventually, I’ll make you drown with me.
I have chosen the first option.”
She understood. Without a word, she looked at me one last time with her big blue eyes. I remember them well. Then she turned away and started walking.
I remained, chipping away at that big rock I had just thrown into my river.