44. Tattoolessly


Mitch was talking about tattoos at the Coffee Summit today. He got a new one this week on his upper chest below the collarbone. “Risk” is what it says in red ink and a slightly Arabic script. He has a neat pair of them on his right arm also. I didn’t ask to see his fourth one. It’s a theme for him, to live with Risk, you know, on the edge of the knife of life. His cell phone rang. His noon appointment cancelled, which freed up his entire day. Life on the edge, man. Every morning he faces it in the mirror– “k s i R”, which may be an unconscious wish on his part to “kiss her”, but that is mere speculation.

Chuckles was rather subdued, not a lot of commentary from him today. He was sponging the verbage from Lance and me and Mitch, I think. He has no tattoos to date. He asked me what the merits of single life were. I told him he would always know what was for dinner and he could have his bed all to himself always. No schedule, no sharing, no expectations put upon him, no lists to check off. In addition he would not have to ask permission to get a tattoo of a flying monkey across his back or a picture of Sasquatch on his chest. Not sure how meritorious these last two would be.

Lance chimed in to support my wisdom mushrooms (which are grown in pure cow dung).  He noted that his wife keeps him on a short leash at times, asking him at Sunday brunch, “Didn’t you listen to a thing that the pastor said?” Still, being married outweighs being single, most of the time, I think. Let me check with my wife and I’ll get back to you with a final answer, as soon as I get this list checked off. “Let’s see, thaw the chicken, and call for that appointment, and get to the bank for the mortgage book.”

We wandered further into the land of tattoos. Jake got another one. Apparently he is a tattoo beast under those tee shirts he wears. Who knew? My daughter Erin got one in college on her shoulder. It said in very tight black letters “and this too, like a fever, shall pass”. It looked like a bar code she could could scan for Easy Pass on the turnpike. When I saw it, I think I said, “No, it won’t pass. It’s permanent.” Years later, maybe ten, she told me that she wished she hadn’t gotten any tattoo. I felt better about it. Not smug, really. No, she’s a beautiful woman and I think she realized that the bar code added no value to her. And it didn’t work on the Easy Pass scanner either, as we learned one Christmas Eve.

The family was waiting for her to drive back from Philly in her dinged up Acura. It was late and the precipitation was turning slushy. Around 11 p.m. we got a call from a Pa. State Trooper Marlowe. He asked if we owned a 1992 Acura. We confirmed that we did and froze with fear of the next thing Trooper Marlowe might utter. He informed us that the driver of that vehicle had just run the toll booth in Harrisburg and could be fined $200 for such an act. ‘Whew!!! She’s alive anyway, just being Erin,’ we thought. Then the trooper listened as we asked for the steps in compliance with this legal infraction. He paused and said, “Hey, Merry Christmas. Just make sure she pays the toll next time.” Thirty minutes later she arrived and we were that much happier to see our tattooed gypsy daughter. “I didn’t have any money and didn’t know any other way to get home.”  We laughed and hugged her a little tighter than usual.

When my daughter Grace was little, maybe 4 years old, we were sitting next to each other at a table during a street fair downtown. It was hot, must have been July. A carnival looking man sauntered by covered in  tattoos, from his bald head to his sandaled feet. Grace blurted out to me, “Daddy, that man has pictures all over him. OOOhhh!”  Unknown to either of us was the older man directly across the table from us. We were looking past him at the carnival guy. This man said, “I’m sorry, Honey. I wish I’d never gotten these. Don’t you ever get one. You’re too pretty.” This poor old guy had three old green Navy tattoos on his saggy Popeye forearms…USN, a half naked woman, and three initials that I hoped were his wife’s. It was an awkward and tender moment at the same time– pure unblemished innocence meets old wrinkled and weathered remorse.

Ahh, tattoos. Charles Manson’s homemade prison backward swastika may have sealed the deal for me. I’m tattooless and loving it. There is no market for used tattoos. You just leave them behind with every other earthly thing when you die. I think buyer’s remorse would kill me like the old sailor sweating guilt before a pure child. Then again, maybe I’m not willing to take the “k s i R”.

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