Thursday, as soon as Rad was out of work, he headed around the corner. He hadn’t told anyone else he planned to get a tattoo, and his stomach fluttered as he walked. Getting the tat probably wouldn’t hurt. Dorsey was good at what he did, or at least Rad guessed he was. But having his skin marked was something new and different, and Rad wouldn’t be able to just get rid of the tattoo if he didn’t like it.
But that wasn’t the only thing on his mind. The day before when he and Dorsey kissed, he’d felt something far deeper—and more worrisome—than friendship. And then Dorsey had pretty much kicked him out. The excuse about having to open the shop again hadn’t rung true to Rad. Nor had it made sense that he couldn’t remain in an open shop.
He suspected that whatever he’d detected in that kiss Dorsey had felt as well and hadn’t wanted to deal with it. Now Rad wasn’t sure how to deal with him.
Dorsey was standing at the counter, going through a small stack of receipts. No one else was in the shop. Rad was starting to wonder whether anyone else in Ludington actually got tattoos. He supposed they must, or the shop wouldn’t be in business, but it seemed strange that he had yet to actually see anyone there.
“Hey.” Dorsey looked up and smiled. “Decided to go through with it, huh?”
“Yeah.” Rad hesitated.
He had spent the night dozing and waking, more nervous about getting a tattoo than he should have been, though the nerves were as much to do with seeing Dorsey as actually getting the tat.
“Everything okay?” Dorsey put the receipts under the counter and took out the sketch he’d done the day before, along with a thin piece of paper with the same design. “I’m all set to get started when you are.”
Again Rad paused. He needed to say something to Dorsey and had no words that wouldn’t make him sound either pushy or whiny.
“Listen, if you’re skittish about the tat, we can wait until another day.” Dorsey came out from behind the counter. “Is that it?”
“I feel weird,” Rad blurted before he could convince himself not to speak. “That kiss yesterday. I mean, it was good, but it was… I don’t even know.”
“Yeah, me either.” Dorsey put his hand on Rad’s shoulder. “How about we don’t try to label it, okay? It was a good kiss, and that’s all we need to say right now. We both know there’s stuff going on with us, but naming it might make it not so good.”
“Yeah.” Relieved, Rad took a breath. “Okay. I just didn’t want things to be weird.”
“Nah, we’re good.” Dorsey held up the nearly transparent paper. “I need to go set up. I use this to make sure we do the tat in the right spot. The needles we use are sterile in unopened packages. Everything’s inspected, and it’s all completely safe. You’ll bleed a little, but nothing too bad.”
Rad shuddered. He’d always hated the sight of blood. Especially his own. “Okay.”
Dorsey chuckled. “Don’t worry. It’s going to be fine. Wait out here while I set up, and I’ll let you know when I’m ready.”
“Okay,” Rad said again.
Dorsey went into the back room, and Rad walked over to the window. The weather had taken a warm turn, so people were actually outside today. No one seemed inclined to come into the tattoo shop, but a few slowed down to look at the artwork and warning sign in the windows.
All of them were people Rad didn’t know or didn’t remember. They were part of a community he would never be able to be part of because he wasn’t like them. Some of them would probably be completely accepting of his sexuality and maybe even of the fact that he’d done drag. But too many would insult him, at the very least.
Too many probably knew his family and would judge him because of that.