Don’t Leave Her

by Jesse Sensibar

I’d heard that the City of Long Beach is dirty and dry. I guess somebody forgot to tell the city that. It’s raining. Not too hard. Hard enough, I hope, to hide the tracks of my sins.

I’m in the shadow of the Port of Long Beach. I can’t see or hear the ocean, but I know it’s there. My eyes are accustomed to clean, dry, desert air, and here they burn a little behind my yellow-tinted safety glasses from the Sulfur Dioxide fumes from the refineries.

The building itself is nothing, just a dark, two-story mass with a red neon sign – TATTOOS – crowding the empty sidewalks like every other building lining this nameless street. I expect the door to be locked. I was prepared to force my way in, but it opens easily.

He’s leaned over the small bench lined with bottles of ink beside his tattoo chair, working on something by the light of a swivel desk lamp pulled so close to the surface of the bench, it leaves the rest of the small room in semi-darkness. I think he’s cleaning his guns but when he hears the door open he sits up, startled, and I see that he’s playing with a set of antique medical glass and stainless steel syringes carefully placed in a lined black leather case open on the bench.

I cross the small room towards him. It takes him a minute to recognize me and when he does, I see the surprise in his face. “Sorry, it was open, I didn’t mean to startle you,” I say. “It’s been a long time, Pinto.”

“Yeah, it has,” he says, as he tries to cover up the antique syringes, the spoon, and the rest of his kit from my view.

“You had to know when you left her there in Dallas. That someday I’d be coming.”

“No man, it was not like that, I swear.”

He’s reaching behind his chair for something, I expect a pistol, but he pulls out a silver and black crucifix on a chain.

“Yes Pinto, it was like that. It was exactly like that.”

“I’m sorry.”

I want to bleed him. I want to tear his fucking throat out.

“The problem is, you’re apologizing to a dead man, Pinto.”

In the small tattoo shop the noise of my big forty-five is deafening and the flash from the short barrel blinds me for a moment.

I keep my free hand raised in front of my face, my fingers spread wide to try and avoid getting hit by the splatter.∎