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The first time I took my clothes off in the presence of David, he looked at my chest and looked beneath my left breast and asked, “Who’s Arthur?” I told him, “It’s a long story. Let’s not go there.” Looking at his face and the change in his demeanor, I realized my answer didn’t satisfy his curiosity but we were at a point he couldn’t risk asking more so he let it go. I ended up spending the night with him. I remember when we woke up the next morning he asked, “Now tell me. Who’s Arthur?”

“Arthur” is tattooed under my left breast with a heart next to it. I did it when I was twenty years and dating Arthur. He was the guy I thought was my soul mate. I found him when I was only eighteen and had started experimenting with love. I found so many guys who said they were interested in me. I gave a few a chance but the connection wasn’t there. He could be handsome but absent. He could give you all the attention you need but lacks the depth you need in a man. And some of them, immediately you see them with their trousers beneath their butt, you knew for sure that they’re about to waste your time.

Arthur was different. He was twenty-five—seven years more than my age but he looked matured than his age. At twenty-five, he had a good paying job and had lived in a two-bedroom apartment that got me enchanted the first day I stepped foot there. He drove his father’s car. He told me, “This is my father’s car but until I’m able to buy mine, it’s mine.” He was straightforward and kind. When I said yes to his proposal, he said, “My dream is to be married at thirty so get ready, when you turn twenty-three, we are getting married.”

I was younger but he didn’t hide anything from me. He told me about his struggles, his dreams, and how he wants to spend the rest of his life with me. I loved him for that but just like every rose has its thorns, Arthur had his bad side. He was very possessive. He wanted to own the very breath that I breathe. He would go through my phone at the least opportunity. When I’m talking to someone, he’ll demand to know the person and sometimes ask me to give him the phone to say hi to the person. I was young and in love so I interpreted his actions as excessive love.

At twenty I got a job that pays well but demanded all my time. I missed his calls often but I called back whenever I got the time. I didn’t get the time to be with him like I used to but on weekends I spent all my time with him. All that didn’t suffice. He wanted more than I could give. At some point, he asked me to quit the job. I said no to him. The first time I’d ever said no to him. That increased his suspicion so on my twenty-first birthday, he said, “If you love me and you think you’re not cheating on me, then let’s have tattoos. You’ll write my name on your body and I’ll write yours on mine.”

I responded, “Why not?”

I thought I needed to prove to him the depth of my love and dedication so he could believe and stop being possessive and jealous. At the Tattoo pallor that day, I sat next to him as he watched me go through the painful process of having his name inked beneath my breast. After everything, he looked at the tattoo and said, “Immediately they see it, they’ll know who you belong to.” I became to him a marked product that no one will like to have. He had my name written on his chest too but I didn’t care. I didn’t place any value on it.

A year later, I visited him one evening after work. He didn’t know I was coming because I didn’t tell him. I was surprising him with my visit. I knocked on the door and he asked, “Who’s there?” I didn’t respond. I knocked again and he asked again, “Who is there?” I kept quiet until he grudgingly came to open the door. He opened it slightly and hoped his head through to see who was there. Immediately he saw me, he asked in a soft voice, almost in whispers “Why didn’t you tell me you were coming?” I screamed excitedly, “Surprise..” and started entering the door. He closed the door behind him and came outside. As if to say, “You can’t go in.”

I asked, “Won’t you let me in?” He said, “No, there’s a friend of mine in there with his girlfriend. He wouldn’t be pleased to see you.” “Ah, a friend of yours in your room and he wouldn’t be pleased to see the room owner’s girlfriend? Seriously?” My suspicion shot up so I started heading for the door. He won’t open. When our voices started going up, I saw a lady, wearing only panty, tiptoeing in the room. She came to stand in the window to see what was happening. I screamed at her, “What are you doing in my boyfriend’s room?” She pulled her head off immediately and left the window.”

I got the message. He was in there with another woman. I looked at her bare chest and saw my name boldly tattooed there. I asked him, “So that really didn’t mean a thing to you? She didn’t ask you whose name it was? She didn’t care to know?” He looked horrified and helpless. I didn’t know what his fears were—whether the thought of losing the girl in there or he was simply horrified about me finding out.

I was eighteen when he found me. He said we would be married when I turn twenty-three. At twenty-two, at the doorstep of the room we made our first love, I said goodbye to him never to return again. Four years in a relationship and all I had left was just a tattoo of his name under my breast. Crazy. But I didn’t care. If he could have someone with my name on his chest then I could also have someone with his name under my breast.

When I told David how I came to have that Tattoo, he didn’t sound perturbed but when he decided to leave the relationship, he said, “How can I be walking with a woman who has another man’s name on her skin?” He told me on several occasions that the tattoo wasn’t the reason but I knew the tattoo was part of the reason. Frederick came, saw my Arthur tattoo, asked questions, and later ghosted me. He wouldn’t answer my calls or respond to my messages. He just disappeared. It might have been the tattoo.

James came along. I knew it was just a matter of time and he too will disappear and come no more. I thought of lying to him about the tattoo. I thought of telling him it was the name of my uncle who took care of my education and gave me a lot of opportunities in life. I thought of telling him it was there in remembrance of his kindness but how long could a lie survive. No one in my family was called Arthur though. So I told him the truth and he laughed at me. He said, “Silly things young lovers do but thank God for the wisdom we find in growth.”

One year later, we were still together. I counted it as all joy but I was still waiting for the day he would use that as an excuse and leave. Two years later, we were still together and in love. And the crazy thing was, he never stopped teasing me about the tattoo. He could send me a lovely message and end it by saying, “My greetings to Arthur the tattoo.” Three years later, we were still together. By this time I was so convinced we were going to end up being married.

Six years later, we are still here, married with two adorable kids that bring joy to our hearts each passing day. Guess what, I still walk around bearing Arthur’s name beneath my breast. I thought of covering it with another tattoo but I didn’t want to go through the same pain twice. When I discussed it with my husband, he said, “You don’t have to do it if you don’t want to do it. Take it as one of the scars on your skin. You can’t get rid of them. You can only make peace with them and live. It doesn’t bother me. Not at all.”

Now, anytime I look at the tattoo, it doesn’t bring me memories of the one whose name it was. It rather reminds me of what my husband said; “It’s just a scar.” A scar to remind me of my reckless youth.

—Esther.

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