“Excuse me, Ms. Roberts?”
said the school assistant interrupting her thoughts. “Mr. Miller is here to see you”
Sarah shook her attention away from the report that she was marking, and looked inquisitively at Mrs. Rosa, the school assistant.
“Yes, Ms.Roberts. Jack Miller’s father. He mentioned that you had requested his presence to discuss about Jack’s falling grades.”
continued Mrs. Rosa.
“Ah, yes! Do ask him to take a seat in the meeting room”
said Sarah, slowly replacing the cap of her trademark red-ink pen. “I’ll be there shortly”.
Nodding politely, Mrs. Rosa gently closed the door. As she listened to the tap-tap of Mrs.Rosa’s stilleto’s reverberate through the hall corridor, Ms. Sarah Roberts, Head Mistress of Yellow Valley International School, smiled and got up from her plush red office chair. She slowly straightened her frock, re-applied her lipstick and rouge, powdered her nose and sprayed a couple of lavish bouts of mouth freshener into her mouth. Though approaching the ripe age of 60, Sarah was always very careful of her appearance. She dressed impeccably and carried herself with a lot of panache. Rarely would you see a strand of hair out of place, or an incomplete coat of nail polish. Coming from a very traditional English upper-class family, Ms. Roberts took pride in her heritage and her privileged up bringing. If anyone could point a finger at her, the only reason they’d have to do so, would be due to her “lack of tolerance”
towards any form of body art or unnecessary piercings. Tried as she did, she was unable to see past those traits of “physical trashiness”
as she called them. Nevertheless, she tried to be as diplomatic as she could be, keeping in mind that she was after all, the head of one of Britain’s premier educational institutions.
As she slowly walked towards the meeting room, Sarah replayed her pre-prepared standard speech that she gave to the parents of her academically-challenged students, not that there were that many. After all, she had hand-picked almost every student who had been given admission to her institution. On passing by the window of the meeting room, Sarah glanced into it. There was a suited man sitting on the chair across the table. She couldn’t see his face since he was looking away from the window, but his dressing sense was exquisite. Neatly combed back hair, dark brown crease-free suit and well-polished brown shoes. This was going to be easy, she thought and pushed open the door to the meeting room.
As Mr. Miller stood up from the seat, raising his hands outwards in a handshake to greet her, Ms. Roberts stood frozen to the spot. With her mouth wide open from the shock, she looked like a fish gasping for breath. Sarah took a few second to regain her composure. When she finally did, she crisply and curtly nodded at Mr. Miller, and walked across the desk, and took a seat across him. Taking a couple of deep breaths, she glanced carefully at Mr.Miller’s face. Fair to say, that the major part of his face, and his neck was covered in a mixture of blue,green and red tattoos. If Ms. Roberts had been impressed with what she little she had observed of Mr.Miller from behind the window, it was pretty evident that she was in utter shock looking at his face. “This was going to be far more difficult than I’d imagined”
As troubling as it was, Ms. Roberts was a professional. On top of that she was amazing at maintaining a straight face. So needless to say, the meeting was far more trouble-free than she had envisaged. Despite his “disturbing”
appearance, Mr.Miller seemed to be well versed, articulate and a successful businessman. And probably used to people being “uncomfortable”
about his facial tattoos, since he did not let Ms.Roberts’ initial few minutes of discomfort throw him of track. Years of experience dealing parents of kids who were sub-standard performers, ensured that Ms.Roberts was able to deliver her pre-planned pitch with minimum fuss and interruption. And Mr. Miller was relatively silent too, interrupting only when absolutely necessary. Though on the surface, Sarah remained cool as a cucumber, she had a number of thoughts going through her head.
“What kind of businessman would do this to his face? Wonder what impression he gives his clients? Is this how Jack, his son, going to turn out as well? How is it that he is so well read and articulate? Maybe this is why Jack is a rebel. Surely something was wrong somewhere. Maybe it was a phase. Do I want this man’s kids to study in my school? He must be really evil. He must worship one of those “unspeakable” dark gods.
Soon Mr.Miller took over the conversation, and started to go through everything that his wife and he had put in place, to ensure that Jack should be performing well at school. Sarah gradually found herself observing the tattoo again. On closer observation, the mixture of green, blue and red lines seemed to define the contours of a snake with its forked tongue licking the eyebrow area. It was so well designed and life-like, that had to been drawn on a piece of paper or a canvas during Art class, Ms. Roberts would have applauded the effort. But on the face - Of all the places, why the face. “Seems like someone always wanted to join Slytherin”
she mused quietly, thinking about the famous Harry Potter reference.
After about 30 minutes of pretty standard parent-teacher conversation,Mr. Miller left with a promise that he would personally see to the fact that Jack’s grades would increase by mid-term. Sarah breathed a sigh of relief and closed her eyes momentarily. The day had been stressful. And though the meeting with Jack’s father had been pretty uneventful, the facial tattoo had really thrown her off. As she leaned back onto the chair and rested her head against the head-rest of the chair, she could feel the fatigue starting to take over and willing her to go to sleep. She resisted, and decided to call it a day, go home, have a nice glass of wine and then curl up with a good book. Her partner was away on business, and wouldn’t be back for a couple of days.
As Sarah reversed out of the school parking lot, her phone went off. It was Brian, calling to confirm their plans for Saturday night. Though she knew that she shouldn’t be talking on the phone whilst driving, Sarah decided to let this one slide, put her 2011 model Fiat Punto Automatic into “Drive”
, and pulled out into usually busy A10 main road. As she giggled at a joke that Brian made, she briefly glanced towards her right and that’s when she saw it - A petrol tanker was throttling towards her at full speed
Suddenly Sarah and the Fiat Punto were in a spinning frenzy, like the spin wheel in the board game LIFE. The twisted heap of car metal and the truck’s bumper screeched against the tar road, and the once-bright-orange Punto flipped on its head. The last thing Sarah saw before she hit darkness was a white, fluffy, balloon-like structure appear out of the blue in front of her face. Then everything went blank. Sarah did not know how long she was unconscious. She did not even know where she was. All she knew was the unbearable throbbing in her head. And that her eyes were swollen, and her jaw bruised. And the cacophonous sound of honking cars, sirens and lights of many colours.
And through these, she heard a voice. It started as a whisper and she could barely make it out. Slowly she tried to tune out the loud noises and flashing lights. And then she heard it a bit more clearly…”Ms.Roberts….are.you.ok? Can you move your head? Can you hear me?”
She wondered who Ms. Roberts was. Must be some else. She tried to peer out through her puffed eyelids. “Ms.Roberts, can you breathe?”
asked the smooth, clear voice. She tried to open her eyes again. Though not clear, she could start to make out shapes and outlines. Slowly the fogginess in her eyes started to clear; and she blinked every so lightly. And then, she started to see him. The contours of his face and prominent jaw came into focus. His steely blue eyes resonated confidence and she felt safe. And then she noticed something odd. Along the sides of his cheeks, all the way unto his forehead and around his eyes, was a shape. At first she dismissed it as a figment of her imagination. Gradually as the scene became clearer, she noticed that it was more prominent. It was a serpent in tones of blue and green, and with a forked red tongue protruding out from its jaw, all the way to his eyebrow
. It looked strange yet vaguely familiar at the same time. And from the depths of her brain, something buzzed…it was as if a dot was joined somewhere. It was called a tattoo, she recollected. She wasn’t sure how she knew that, but she did.
She carefully looked at the tattooed face of the man who had saved her. And then out of the blue, she felt a prick on her hand. And suddenly she felt a wave of nausea and tiredness wash over her. She felt her eyelids get heavier, and as she slowly started to close them, she knew she had seen that tattoo before! If only she could remember where.
Disclaimer (As usual:))
First of all, this is a work of fiction and I have absolutely nothing against people who have tattoos, no matter where they might be. On the other hand, my wife has been going on and on about getting a tattoo, and apart from the fact that she is yet to find the right “spot”, I for one, have not stood in her way of “art-y-fying” herself. The story was merely used as a tool to highlight the negative stereo-typing that people with tattoos, especially on their faces, necks and other prominent areas face, across the globe. Even the most advanced societies are not entirely free of this discriminatory behaviour, and unfortunately, Ms. Roberts resembles that segment of the society. The reality is that, most of these “tattooed folk” as they are often labelled, are kind souls who are just a bit more “vocal and visual” with their interests. And we should respect them for that. After all, they are fellow human beings too.