I bumped into the girl as I returned from the restroom, and she grabbed my arm.
“Can I ask you something?” she said. She clung to her cocktail as if it were a lifebuoy. Judging from her slurred speech and the look in her eyes, this was not her first drink.
“Go ahead,” I replied, hoping she wouldn’t embarrass me or herself.
“Tell me what you see here,” she said, letting go of me and pulling up her sleeve a bit, thus revealing her upper arm and shoulder. I tried to get a good look, but the lighting was poor and the girl had trouble keeping her balance on her wobbly legs.
“I’m afraid I can’t get a proper view,” I said and wanted to hurry on, but she grabbed my arm again.
“Wait,” she said. “Take a better look then.”
She turned around, lifting her arm so that I could see it from close by, spilling most of her drink in the process. “Oh,” I said. “Now I see it. It’s a tattoo. A flower tattoo. A rose.”
“A rose?” she exclaimed, as if this revelation exceeded her wildest expectations. “Are you serious?”
“Of course I am. Is there a problem?”
She brought her glass to her lips, found to her dismay there was little of her cocktail left and shot me a look of utter despair. I had to refrain myself from ordering another drink for her, but needn’t have worried, as she locked eyes with the bartender who acted promptly. Within seconds she was sipping her next cocktail.
“Are you sure you didn’t see a cat?” she asked, suddenly looking terribly lost.
“No,” I said. “It was a rose, not a cat. Why?”
“Or a pink heart, with the name Andy under it?”
I shook my head. “It definitely was a rose.”
“A small dragon, perhaps?” Now she looked as if she was about to panic.
“I didn’t see any of those things,” I said, hoping that she would let me go. She clung to my arm again, and sipped her cocktail before she started spilling it again.
“A text? Four words?”
“A rose,” I repeated. “I saw it clearly. Now, if there’s nothing else…”
“Let me explain,” she said, tightening her grip on my arm. I clearly wouldn’t be dismissed before the end of her story.
“I wanted a tattoo, so I went to this tattoo parlor, but couldn’t make up my mind. First I opted for a heart with my boyfriend’s name under it, but if one day he should walk out on me, I’d be stuck with a name on my arm I’d no longer be happy with.”
I nodded. “That must be the Andy you mentioned. It makes perfect sense.”
“Then I thought of a dragon, but found it too much of a cliché. You see dragons everywhere these days.”
“Depends on how much you’re drinking, I suppose.” My sarcasm turned out to be lost on her.
“Then I considered a cat, but my cat had just died and it brought back too many painful memories.”
“Very understandable,” I agreed.
“Then I thought maybe a rose would do, but I found it too overly romantic. So I couldn’t make up my mind and the guy lost his patience. So I told him, you decide then. Do what you think fits best. So that’s what he did.”
“And that’s how you ended up with a rose,” I concluded.
She downed her cocktail and sighed deeply. “I think the guy gave me everything. Some people see a rose, others a cat, or a dragon, or a heart. Or four words.”
“What do you see?” I asked. I had to admit I liked her story, outrageous as it was.
“Depends on my mood,” she said, looking down at her feet.
And your condition, I added in thought.
She finally let go of my arm and said, “Guess I’ll go and sit for a while. I’m a bit tired.”
“Fine,” I replied, relieved. “By the way, you said some people see four words. Which ones?”
She hesitated for a moment and then said: “Oh, some people say they see the words Make up your mind.”
“Makes sense,” I said. “Sound advice from that tattooist. What else could he have done? You left him no other choice.”
She rolled down her sleeve again, removing the rose from view. It was clear our conversation was coming to an end.
As I turned away from her I could see her staggering towards the bar to order another cocktail. She seemed to have no problem making up her mind on that score. Just before I left the place I cast one final glance over my shoulder, and saw that she had already accosted another victim, probably with the same story, as she had rolled up her sleeve. It was hard to be sure from this distance and with the poor lighting, but to my surprise and disbelief the tattoo on her upper arm didn’t quite look like a rose…