My ink was supposed to be a secret, an ode to a character in a storybook, a solemn reminder to myself that I could escape if I should ever choose to. I was locked from the inside of my own mind and I always possessed a key. Instead, smooth hands unearthed it, offered to make a twin, an escape from the locked doors and pitfalls.
Small droplets of ink are tucked behind my ear, tattooed, a nod to Alice and her glass tabletop key, the key that lead her out of the room of too-tall sweets and too-small drinks. Drink me, I thought to myself too often and my love would palm the ink. Drink me.
I wanted him to pour through me like the cherry tart/custard/pineapple/roast turkey/toffee/hot buttered, toast-flavored liquid—to wrap around my tongue and shoot straight to my stomach, flooding my insides like the Pool of Tears and carry me away on a happy tide to a calm shore.
The steam-filled nights of new love we shared were like a caterpillar puffing smoke from his own supply of substances. Now that the holidays and their vibrant lights and mad parties were gone, we finally made it outdoors and into the chill of the city air.
He’d cup the colored area behind my ear in the frigid Chicago days, transfixed in wonder, tuck my hair behind my knitted headband and get a good look at the little key stuck on to my head.
His eyes were the deep green of a hedge maze when he looked at me, little golden flecks the color of crowns appearing when the sunshine hit.
“I don’t know what the meaning is behind this,” he said, “or how personal or profound, but if you don’t mind, I want to get a matching keyhole tattoo on my hand.” He showed me the padded, fleshy part of his right hand where his thumb connects to his palm. “That way, when I hold you, we’ll be even more connected.”
And there, my heart soared. The sub-zero winds of the city smacking my face couldn’t reach my heart and no matter the wind-chill, the blood circulating in my veins was jubilant, and a tingling sensation coursed all throughout my limbs.
I was skeptical this was all a reflection in a looking glass or just a dream, but his hand was still cupping my head behind my earlobe, staring at me like I was his favorite book and I could feel a smile spreading.
I must’ve looked like the Cheshire Cat before his mouth was on mine on the bright winter day with a devastating frost that no flower could survive, but I felt the warmest I had felt. It was as though a magic tonic had been drunk—my limbs had grown and I was taller than I ever thought I could be. My heart was bigger than my skin would ever allow and my body burst from a cottage, time either having no place or operating under warped rules.
I asked him if he was worried about pain in such a delicate spot, a minuscule ax slicing through skin and he just smirked and said no.
He said that if the ink ever lost the darkness of a rabbit hole, he’d get it touched up, even if it were a regular basis because of the location, being so frequently exposed to sunshine and the elements.
Then me, being proper as a pinafore, asked if he minded where the ink would be, so bold, so near the palm of his hand, so exposed to where people of all places could see it as he shook hands, shuffled cards, or sipped a steaming beverage. He replied that he was proud to have such a display and would happily entertain all curious inquiries as to what it was if asked, and who the headbanded girl was who owned the key that turned the lock.
While my key would always let me out, there was a mirror mate to take falls with me no matter how long or mysterious they might be. The awaiting door was and would always be right beside me, nearer than I had ever imagined and always unlocked.
I could fall forever with him beside me.