~after Diego and I, by Frida Kahlo, 1949
The man in the painting is fat and froggish. The tattooist doesn’t judge. He’d be out of business if he did. He regards the tiny portrait again. The work is good. Respect, he thinks. She’s a good artist. The man in the painting has an eye on his forehead. He opens my vision to myself, she’d whispered, almost in a swoon. Wanting it tattooed on her forehead was a surprise, but he loves to work where the flesh is tightest. The tattooist calculates: the man’s head on her forehead will add three eyes to hers. And — his own head starts to spin — her lover’s head will serve as her third eye. When he finishes inking the woman’s forehead, there will be six eyes on her face. He chuckles at an inner joke: if he could charge by the eye, and sneak in an extra, he’d have himself a treat of a dinner this evening!
He watches her relax into the pain as he works. He notes her single brow, her moustache, the collar of her wet, black hair. Her eyes, dark and urgent. Every bit of her seems spent but alive. These contradictions please him. He imagines her face inked on his own forehead, and his thoughts begin to spiral. His own third eye opens, tells him this woman has suffered, but that she is carried by her toad of a man. He senses that as this woman’s body will diminish, her love and her art will become greater. The tattooist has never experienced devotion like this. It’s a shame it’s second-hand.