Robert Lopez & Eva Ruiz

I’m Fine or Save Me

She likes to commemorate bad situations with tattoos. This time it was an ambigram on her wrist that reads “I’m fine” or “Save me” depending on how you look at it. Last time, it was “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better” scrolled across her lower back.

I never looked at her tattoos. She’d always ask me to look at them and I always said I wouldn’t.

Sofie always asked to look at her tattoos. She thought they were brilliant, deep.

I didn’t like Sofie, didn’t like anything about her. I didn’t like how she wore too much perfume and not enough eye makeup, didn’t like how she spelled her name.

Sofie thinks I am swell.  Sofie is always calling and writing and suggesting the three of us go out to dinner, that we hike up some mountain in Vermont or go on vacation someplace tropical.

I’ve stopped answering the phone as a result. If I return a message I say that I’m busy at work, that my dog is in the hospital, that I’ve had to move to Oregon.

I’d arranged it so I’d never see either of them again.

This is why I was disappointed when I felt them huddle around me as I was out buying cigarettes. I only smoke two or three a week, so I rarely have to go out to buy them, maybe once a month.

I waited for one or the other to say something. Instead, each of us hugged individually, then as a group. Then they walked out of the bodega and down the street.

I almost asked why she never tattooed a picture on herself, why it always had to be words, why it always had to be deep. But I didn’t because I think I know the answer and I don’t want to hear it.

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Robert Lopez is the author of five books, of which the most recent are All Back Full and Good People. He teaches at The New School, Pratt Institute, Columbia University and The Solstice Low-Res MFA Program of Pine Manor College. Find out more at www.robertlopez.net.

Eva Ruiz only has time to write flash fiction because she’s too busy starting Mi Casita, a bilingual preschool and cultural center, in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, www.micasitabk.org.