Monday, September 3, 2018

Vrhnika 2021

As usual, Bari was the first to arrive at the clinic. He turned on the lights and Svetko’s and Klemen’s Titan 4’s, and made himself tea. He looked at his phone and saw that there was another text message from his father, who couldn’t seem to get it through his head that Bari wasn’t going to respond to him. Bari marvelled at Father imagining that he cared how uncomfortable and miserable he was at the prison in which he would spend the rest of his life, at how he seemed to imagine that Bari would believe his denial of involvement in his and Mother’s kidnapping and deportation after Mother admitted on 60 Minutes that she detested Father, and was sickened by him. 
That night, half a dozen men in dark suits and even darker scowls had broken into their apartment in the Tower and informed them that they were going to be visiting Mother’s native country, Slovenia, even though they’d just returned from visiting Aunt Ines there two weeks before. They didn’t even allow Mother to pack. The leader of the men was very rude to Mother, and when she tried to get past him into her huge wardrobe room, he grabbed her by the arm. Bari wanted to defend her, but another of the men, chewing gum with a strong smell of peppermint, had stepped in front of him wearing a face that reminded Bari of Jared R—, the worst bully at St. Andrew's Episcopal and growled, “Stay put, little man.”
After getting over the shock, Mother had actually been very happy about their forced relocation. Not three weeks after they got back, she’d met Zdravko, an architect from Ljubljana, and Bari had immediately liked him much more than he liked Father, who’d never seemed very interested in him. But Bari missed Davina, his best (that is, only) friend from St. Andrew’s, and didn’t know what to do with himself until Zdravko had the idea of asking his cousin to give him a job for the summer atthe tattoo removal clinic he owned in Vrhnika. And here Bari was, starting his fourth week as the clinic’s gofer and, in theory, intern.
Monday mornings were usually very quiet. Svetko and Klemen would brag to each other about the sexual adventures they’d had over the weekend, and about how much Brinjevec they’d drunk, and take 200-minute lunches. It seemed that this particular Monday was going to be even quieter than usual, as Klemen sent a text message saying he was too too hung over to come in at all, and Svetko one of his own saying he wouldn’t be in until early afternoon, which Bari knew to mean around three. He sighed and resigned himself to spending the next several hours on Instagram and Snapchat, though Davina, back in the USA, probably wouldn’t even wake up before Svetko came in. Bored, he read Father’s text message, which, as usual, was about how awful the food was, and how unfair the guards and other inmates were to him. As he had back at St. Andrew’s, Bari wondered how Father chose which words to capitalise. It seemed to be completely random.

At a few minutes past eleven, an actual client came in, and Bari panicked. What if the guy wanted a tat removed? Bari had watched dozens of removals, but not yet been allowed to use the lasers. Asking Bari, “How you doing?” the guy sounded American. Bari asked if he was, and the guy said, yes, from Altoona, Pennsylvania. He and his wife had been to Venice, and Llubljana, which had turned out to be a lot nicer, a lot greener, than he’d expected. He’d read about Bari's summer job, and hoped to speak to him.

He didn’t like the look on Mr. Altoona’s face as related how ICE had essentially kidnapped and made to disappears the wife of one of his best friends at work. There hadn’t been much about his earlier life Bari had liked, but he’d been grateful, in view of how many people hated Father, for the square-jawed guys in dark blue suits who went everywhere with him and Mother. 

The guy took his sweater off. He was wearing a tanktop beneath it. He certainly wasn’t in anything like the great shape Zdravko, who went to the gym five times a week, was in. His right upper arm said Fuck Trump. “Is that what you want removed?” Bari asked, knowing, even as he did so, that it was a stupid question, since it was the guy’s only visible tattoo.