Inkings And Scares

About a year ago I wrote this short story. It’s been the most well loved story I have written so I thought I’d share it here on my blog. I hope you all enjoy. 

Inkings and Scares 
by Megan Elaine
I stare at the ink perfectly placed on the barista’s arm as he pours cream into someone’s latte.  The design intrigues me and makes me smile; its inked fluffed feather, black-pointed wingtips, and beady eyes make it look like the bird could soar right off the barista’s arm and into the air. No matter what the meaning holds, it always makes me wonder as I drink my coffee.
“Peppermint mocha?”
I look up from from the inked bird, managing not to flinch too much.  The barista is leaning on the counter with his elbows, watching me.
“Yes, please. As always,” I say with a smile, trailing my finger along one of the scars on my arms.
As he pulled another cup from the self and started to brew my coffee, I take a glimpse at the rest of my scars, wondering if I would be brave enough to get my own tattoo. I already have too much permanent damage. Damage that came along with memories of the surgery room.
He sets my order in front of me and I thank him. He smiles and nods. I don’t ask about his tattoo. He doesn’t ask about my scars.
I walk away from the counter and sit at a table in the corner of the little coffee shop. I slip my worn purse off my shoulder, where is rests in my lap. As I take my first sip of yumminess, I see the barista come from behind the counter and head towards my way. He stops at my table, leaning on the back of the open chair.
“Do you mind if I sit with you?”
“No, not at all,” I say back to him, as he pulls out the chair and sits down in front of me.
“Thanks. I was hoping I’d get to talk to you.”
“No problem. Why do you want to talk with me?”
“Well, I see you every day but I have never had the chance to ask you for your name.”
I smile at this.
“People call me June. That’s my nickname. What’s yours?”
“June, I like that name. I’m Kevin.”
“Thanks. I like the name Kevin too.”
He laughs.  “Thanks, but it’s not as unique as June. So, I take it you like Taylor Swift?” He motioned towards my concert T-shirt I was wearing.
I smile shyly.  “Yeah, I kinda do. I got it when I went to her concert in high school. I still like to wear it on occasion.”
“I think that’s cool. I don’t mind her myself.”
We talk and laugh for what feels like the longest time, even though it was only fifteen minutes. Then, of course, comes the time when he has to get back to work.
“I hope we get to talk again sometime soon. I enjoyed this time with you.” He says, showing his smile.
“I hope so, too,” I reply, really hoping that “sometime soon” could maybe be tomorrow.
We both get up from our chairs. I sneak a quick look at Kevin’s inked bird again. I should have asked him the meaning behind it. Maybe next time I talk to him I could.
Finishing up a few more errands I have to do, I drive home. The sky is turning from day to dusk. Hues of purple, pink, and blue reflect in my rearview mirror as I drive towards the East, thinking about the conversation I had with Kevin.
Throughout the next few months, Kevin and I talk almost every day. There are a couple times when he isn’t at work and I have to sit by myself. I am always tempted to ask him about his tattoo, or at least say something about it, but I don’t have the guts to do so.
Walking into the coffee shop one day, Kevin’s inked sparrow stands out to me as always. I can see that he has already started to make my mocha, even before I walk up to the counter.
“It’s nice to see your shining smile today” he says, as he hands me my warm cup of peppermint joy.
“Thank you,” I smile even more at the complement.
I take a seat at the same table we always sit at and Kevin soon joins me.
We chitchat about different things as I drink my coffee, like the weather and and music. Today I’m determined to ask him about the bird.
“So,” I say, as I rest my hands on top of the table, leaning slightly forward. “the bird tattoo on your arm. I’ve always been intrigued by it. If you don’t mind me asking, what is it’s meaning?”
“What? You mean this?” he says, brushing his hand over the ebony wings, “I’ve had it for about a year or so. I love birds. The way they soar in the sky and rise above the rest of the world. It fascinates me.”  He pauses for a moment. It looks like he is debating whether or not to say something. After a few moments, word come again.
“When I lived at home, situations were bad. My parents were drug addicts. They told me I would never be able to amount to anything. I was only 17 when they kicked me out and told me never to come back. I’ve been on my own ever since then. Friends and neighbors helped me get back up on my feet but I never really thought I could ever be who I wanted to be,” He looks away, almost in embarrassment. I never thought this would be his story. “I hope someday I’ll soar and thrive, too, just like the birds. So I got a sparrow inked to my skin just to remember my dream.”
My lips open, but no words come. My heart feels broken as he finished the story.
“I’m so sorry that happened to you. Words can’t really do it justice.” I say in almost a whisper, with a sympathetic look on my face.
“Don’t worry about it. I’m back on my feet again and I have great friends helping me out. So, what about you? You kind of have tattoos of your own?”  I look down at the scars on my arms, feeling kind of embarrassed about them. I debate with myself if I should tell him the true story or not. He told me his, but should I tell him mine?
“Yeah, I kind of do,” The words slip from my mouth, “when I was young I had to have many surgeries. They left me lying in bed with nothing really to do while all my other friends played outside and rode bikes. I felt so left out. I shouldn’t complain too much. I got to stick my noise in some good books, but still. All the pain from the surgeries left me with a sickening feeling inside. I tried my best to heal and get better but it didn’t happen the way I wanted it to. Since then, the people I’ve been around and the situations I’ve been in have hurt me more than not. For the longest time, I wore only long sleeve shirts for the longest time because I was so self conscious about my scars. I’ve been able to shake off some of my insecurities now that I’ve gotten older. The scars still remind me of all the pain, though. I don’t think I’ve healed all the way. I wish I could fly.”
Tears start to form in my eyes. I try to hold them back, but one escapes and slips down onto my cheek. I quickly whip it way, I don’t want Kevin, or anyone else in the coffee shop to see me cry. I almost regret telling him.
Kevin looks just as I felt when he told me his story. We just told each other about our marks on our skins and how they had an impact on our lives.
“Can I just tell you,” he says, leaning in to where only I could hear, “every scar tells a story. A story that says, ‘I survived’. You may have a couple scars and a few bad memories, but then again, all heroes do.  Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls. God promised to work everything that has happened to you, and everything that will happen to you, for your good and His glory. June, your scars are beautiful. You can thrive in healing hands. You can fly too.”
My mind revolves around the words that were just spoken. I have never viewed my scars and pains like that before. I have always seen them as markings and pale seams that bear the sign of imperfection, not beauty and God’s glory.  I don’t say much because it is time for Kevin to get back to work. My head is still swimming with his words, though.
The sun is painting a picture of blues and yellows across the sky again as I drive home. I now see how I can view my scars differently. I can give God my pains. My scars tell a story of emerging from suffering. A story that says at the end, “I survived”, and it is all for God’s glory.  Perhaps like Kevin’s sparrow, I can fly too.

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