Robin de Voh
writer, developer, nerd

Nanoprep 2018 Day 7: Alex

By Robin de Voh on 2018-10-07

Silas walked out of the tattoo parlor and grinned. She'd love this, he thought to himself, as he put his hand over the fresh tattoo he'd just had gotten on his upper right arm. It tingled a little. He'd been told tattoos can really hurt, but this had been more like someone was pushing a hairbrush into his arm. Half tickle, half pain, but as far as pain went, it wasn't even that noticeable.

He'd suggested it to her a few weeks ago, and she'd said "That would be such a good idea!" from the bedroom. He'd made a note of that response and made the appointment the day after.

What could go wrong?

After a brisk and enthusiastic walk, he got to their apartment. He fumbled with the keys a little, since he didn't want to use his right arm too much. He was worried about any stretching while it was still so fresh. They had put some cling film on it, with the express directions to remove it as soon as possible. He didn't want it to move out of the way, allowing his sweater to touch the open wound -- which a tattoo technically is.

He opened the door and walked in.

"Alex?" he said loud enough so she could hear it from anywhere in there. He heard some stumbling from the bedroom. She was still in bed.

To surprise her, he'd set the appointment on a Saturday morning, as early as possible. Yesterday Alex had gone out to drink with coworkers for their yearly party, so he knew she wouldn't be out of bed early.

With a sleepy voice, she slowly said "Hmm, yeah?".

Silas took his sweater off and hung it over a chair in the living room. With a big grin and his tattoo showing, he walked into the bedroom. It was dark in there, as the curtains were still drawn. He kissed Alex on her forehead, then went to open the curtains.

"Noooo," she said weakly as the sunlight started lighting up the room.
"Yeeees," Silas said as he sat down on the bed next to her.

She lifted herself up just enough to look up at him.

"Good morning," she said with a smile. Then she noticed he was dressed. "Where are you going?"
"I'm not going anywhere. In fact, I just came back from something?"
"Croissants?"
"I also got croissants. But that's not why I went out."
"Why then", she said as she let her head fall back into the pillow.
"Well, sit up and take a look at me," Silas said, grin still on his face.
"Hrrgh," she groaned through the pillow, but started to curl into position to sit up.

After she'd lifted herself up and landed with her back against the headboard, she looked at him with a squint, still uncomfortable in the sunlight. She looked at his hair, expecting a haircut. She saw that it was the same. She checked his pants and shoes, but she also knew both of those. Then she noticed a shimmer on his arm.

"What's that?" she said, leaning forward a bit. She couldn't see much beyond the cling film since the sun was bouncing off it.
"You should check," he said, peeling off the cling film carefully.

Now she could see.

It was a tattoo of ornate letters, decorated with red flowers and some heavy shading. Her breath got caught in her throat.

"Is that...?" she stammered eventually, pointing at it while looking at him in confusion.
"Yep," Silas said, grinning even wider.
"You had my name tattooed? My name?!" she said in increasing frustration.
"Yeah," Silas said, his grin now gone. Panic set in, this was not the response he'd been hoping for.
"You... Why the fuck would you do something this stupid?!" she shouted.
"I told you about it a while back and you said it was a good idea!"
"I... What? Are you fucking serious? THAT WAS SARCASM, SILAS!"

Now his breath got caught.

"I... But... I meant it to..."
"Stop," Alex said, holding up her hand. She shook her head and sighed as she swung her legs over the side of the bed. "Just stop."
"But, Alex..." Silas tried.
"No. First off, we've only been dating for 2 months. 2 months! If you can even call it dating, I hadn't even decided on that!"

Silas looked down.

"And now you do this? Screw this, Silas, I'm out of here. This is insane. You're insane. That's permanent!"
"Well, yeah, sort of, but... Lasers?"

She was halfway through putting her clothes on, but she looked at him angrily and shook her head again.

"Yeah. I suggest you look into that."

She gathered her things and walked out. Silas had tried to restart the conversation but she'd made it perfectly clear that whatever he had to say, she was not interested in it at all.

In the days after, he'd sent her a few messages, but after a while it became obvious they weren't arriving anymore. She'd never responded to any of them, but his guess was that she'd blocked him. They had a mutual friend, but she made it very clear she wanted no part in any of this either. Also that she agreed that it was insane, and that she'd expected smarter decisions from him.

He couldn't remember exactly what had been so convincing about the idea in the first place, but something in his head had just clicked. It had made perfect sense. He would get the tattoo, she would see it, love it, and they'd then have some kind of romantic escapade to celebrate his awesome new tattoo that honored her -- them.

God, it sounded stupid to him now.

A week later, he was sitting in a bar, alone, waiting for a friend to arrive -- one that wasn't also friends with Alex -- when a girl came up to the bar to order some drinks for her and some of her friends. Silas was wearing a t-shirt which showed off his tattoo. He'd come up with an excuse for it now, that it was the name of his grandfather or something, and that he had been an inspiration to him. Even though both his grandfathers were still alive and were called John and Samuel, but nobody had to know that.

He looked at her, and she happened to look at him. He smiled a faint smile and looked back down to his beer. She had smiled back, and then noticed his tattoo.

"Nice tattoo, special girl?"

It was a good thing he'd prepared for this.

"Ha, no, actually, it's to honor my grandfather."
"Oh, that's really sweet. He must be very important to you."
"He was, yeah."
"Oh, I'm so sorry. I didn't..." she stammered a little. Her drinks were put in front of her and she smiled awkwardly as she paid for them, picked them up, nodded to Silas, and walked off.

He shook his head. Maybe dead grandfathers aren't the best excuse to use.

After a few minutes, his friend Ralph walked in. He slapped Silas on the shoulder and sat down on the nearest bar stool. He saw that Silas' drink was almost done and without a word ordered two more beers.

"So, sad sap, what's been going on?" Ralph said, leaning forward while putting on a far too serious face.
"Not much, been feeling a bit down but otherwise okay," Silas responded, nodding at the bartender who'd just put down a new beer for him.
"So, this is it?" Ralph said, lifting Silas' t-shirt out of the way. "Damn dude, didn't go subtle either, I see."
"Nope. Went all-in, and she went all-out."
Ralph laughed. "What the hell were you thinking, man. We've mocked idiots who do shit like this in the past."
"I know, but something came over me. I really liked her, I guess. But man, I don't know."
"Well, sometimes we do stupid shit and it fucks us, right?" Ralph said while holding up his beer.

They toasted. The girl from before suddenly came back up to them.

"I'm sorry to intrude, but I was here just now," she said.
"Oh, yeah, I remember," Silas said while Ralph leaned back and overlooked this interesting new development.
"I just wanted to say that I only said something about the tattoo because my name is actually Alex," she said with an almost apologetic smile.

Ralph chuckled and raised an eyebrow at Silas.

"It is?" Silas said, sitting up straight in surprise.
"Yeah, and I just thought it was funny, y'know. Didn't mean to bring back bad memories or anything."

She smiled. Silas could see her friends in the background, giggling. Better be smooth, Silas, he thought as he gathered his courage.

"I'm Silas," he said, holding out his hand.
"Alex, but you already knew that," she said, laughing at the awkwardness.
"Can I offer you a drink?" he said.
"Well, I just got drinks, remember? But after that, yeah, I think I'd like that."

She nodded and walked back to her friends, who huddled around her. The sound of laughter could be heard.

"Dude. Seriously. That was gold," Ralph said while holding up his beer to also toast this specific situation.
"Yeah, I don't know how that happened, but maybe the tattoo wasn't a mistake after all," Silas said as he raised his glass to toast.

Later that evening, he did have a drink with Other Alex, and they had a nice conversation. They had exchanged numbers and he had every intent to follow up on it.

The next day, he was on his way to work and stood on the train platform as he usually did. There were the regular amount of people here, and he recognized some of them by face. Normally he'd have a croissant and a coffee as breakfast, but Previous Alex had ruined those for him, so now he just had a coffee. The announcement bell rang over the platform speakers, meaning that timetable troubles had arrived. Again.

"Dear travelers. The 08:05 from platform 7 has been delayed by at least 15 minutes. Please take note of the screens for more information."

He sighed and looked at the screen. At least half the trains were delayed, and he knew what that meant. 15 minutes of delay often turns into a train not going at all and all the passengers just being shifted to the next train, since his goes every 30 minutes.

Looking at the screen, he saw a girl standing a few meters away from him. He'd seen her before, she was a train regular. She looked at him and shook her head. He nodded with an exaggerated annoyance on his face, even rolling his eyes to really drive the point home. She laughed and took a few steps towards him.

"It's been a bad week, hasn't it?" she asked.
"You mean train-wise or more in general?" he said with a slight grin.
"Well, I don't think I know you well enough to really go into anything more serious than trains, so let's stick with just the trains."

Witty. He liked it.

"You taking the train for work?" he asked.
"Technically still about trains, so yeah. I am. You?"
"Same."
"I'm Alex, by the way," she said, holding out her hand.

He looked at her with his eyebrows furled. He didn't immediately stick out his own hand, which seemed frozen.

"Are.. Are you okay?" she asked him with a worried look on her face. She dropped her hand to her side again, then stuffed it into her coat pocket.
"Yeah, I'm... Sorry, I've just been meeting a lot of people named Alex lately."
"Oh," she said and laughed, "Are you collecting us? Like PokΓ©mon?"
Now he laughed. "I'm Silas," he said as he held out his hand.

Another announcement. "There will be an additional express train leaving from platform 2, to replace the 08:05 from platform 7. Please proceed to platform 2."

"Ah, I'll be taking that one," she said while looking back at the screen.
"I actually need this train, the express doesn't stop at my station," Silas said.
"Well then, Silas," she said as she shook his hand, "Guess we'll see each other next time."

She smiled at him, turned around and walked towards the stairs at a swift pace.

He sighed. What the hell is up with all these Alexes, he thought to himself. He sent Ralph a message.

"Hey. Remember that Alex we met yesterday?"
"Yeah, she was cute. You message her yet?"
"No, but that's not the thing. I just met another Alex."
"Guy this time? Also cute? πŸ˜‰"
"No. Ralph, seriously, this is super weird."
"So not a guy. Cute girl then? 😁"
"Yes, but... πŸ˜’ Never mind."
"Alrighty! Cute Alexes out the wazoo, what a depressing life you lead! 😭 Still on for Friday?"
"Friday's still on. Ass."
"πŸ‘"

Silas sighed and looked back at the information screen. His train was indeed dropped. Next train was already on the board, with a 5 minute delay. Ralph was a good friend, but he had a tendency of always turning everything into a joke. Decent jokes most of the time, but it could take a while to get him to understand that a topic was actually serious. Once that happened, it was fine, but getting there was often difficult.

After work he'd often get a coffee before boarding the train back home. It was pretty warm, so he had taken off his coat. While he was standing in line, he could see two girls in the corner of the coffee house pointing at him and talking amongst themselves. He raised an eyebrow as if to say "What?" and they noticed. They stopped looking at him but kept talking. He looked away as it was his turn to order, but when he looked back afterwards, they were gone. He shook his head and walked up to the end of the counter to wait for his coffee.

When he'd gotten it, he walked out, and then noticed them. The girls from before were standing around the corner, seemingly waiting for him.

"What?" he now actually said, slightly annoyed.
"Nothing!" one of them blurted out, obviously uncomfortable. "We're just waiting for a friend."
"Okay, so what was all that pointing and laughing about, then?" Silas said very annoyed, as he found that he was in an unusually inquisitive mood.
"Just your tattoo," the other girl said.
"Why? What's so special about it?" he demanded.
"It's just, it's silly, but my name's Alex."

Silas sighed.

"Of course it is. I've been getting that a lot."
Then the first girl spoke again, "And my name's Alex too."
"Oh." Silas managed to get out before falling silent.

Then his brain shat itself.

"Y-You're both called Alex."
"Well, I'm Alexandra, but she's just Alex, yes. And it was funny that we were here together and you walked in, with a tattoo with our names on it. That was all."

Silas looked at them and saw that they were being earnest. He, however, was confused, annoyed and a little bit afraid. So he turned around and walked away without saying another word. He grabbed his phone, nearly dropping it as his hands were shaking a little.

"Ralph. We're drinking tonight," Silas messaged.
"What? What about Friday?"
"Fuck Friday. Drinking tonight."
"Geez, fine. I'll be there."

That night he arrived later than Ralph, who was looking far more serious than last time he'd seen him.

"So what's up, dude?"

Silas walked past Ralph and towards the bartender, ordering 2 vodkas and 2 beers. He paid for it and then pointed at where the drinks should go. He then sat down next to Ralph.

"Okay, vodka, shit's up," Ralph said, now looking worried.
"Remember how I said I'd been meeting a lot of Alexes lately? Now there's Previous Alex, Other Alex, Train Alex, Coffee Alex #1 and #2."
"Seriously? 5 Alexes?"
"5 Alexes," Silas said as he downed both vodkas that had just been placed in front of him.
"How many Alexes do you even know, outside of this past week?"
"5 Alexes, Ralph. I only know 5 Alexes. Only these."
"Okay, so it's a weird coincidence. Like a cosmic joke or something."
"I think it's the tattoo."
"You... Okay, I'm going to need vodka too," Ralph said as he gestured his order to the bartender, also signing that it should be put on his tab.
"Since I got it, there's Alexes everywhere and it's driving me nuts."
"Dude, you're just seeing a pattern that isn't really there. Sure it's the tattoo -- now there's a reason for Alexes to talk to you. That's all. There's not really a cosmic joke going on here."

The bartender walked up and put down 2 vodkas. Ralph slid one over to Silas and nodded for him to have it.

"Sorry," the bartender said, "I'm new and don't know your name yet. I'll need your name to put it on your tab."
"Ah, hey, yeah. I'm Ralph."
"Thanks, Ralph," the bartender said, filling it in on his phone, which they used for orders. "Got it. I'm Alex, by the way," the bartender said as he nodded and walked away.
"Duuuuuuuude," Ralph said under his voice.

Silas just stared.

"That's it. This is bullshit. He doesn't even know I have the tattoo," Silas said, pointing at his long-sleeve shirt.
"Yeah, okay, I'm starting to kinda get that feeling too. So now what?"
"Tattoo removal will be about 300 bucks."
"No, really? You're going to have it removed?"
"I've had what I can only describe as the weirdest fucking week I've ever had, Ralph, and it's filled with Alexes."
"Well, 2 of them were cute, right?"
"Not the time. Really not the time."
"Sure, but, I just mean... At least the ... What did you call her? Other Alex? That one seemed like she might be worth it."

Silas downed his vodka, and immediately afterwards his beer.

"I'm done with Alex, Ralph. All of 'em."