It was out of character for me, but I showed up without a plan.
Just a little scribble on a scrap of paper.
I asked a few
million questions about the needles.
“Lady,” said the man at the counter, “we ain’t interested in spreadin’ diseases.”
Jed, the newest apprentice, was available.
I agreed. Jed would be fine.
What did I know?
I wanted a tattoo.
So I dropped my pants and allowed a stranger to drag needles across my skin.
As I laid on the table, I listened to the rain that pummeled the tin roof over our heads.
And through the open door, I watched the rain sweep cigarette butts into the sewer.
Any other day, I would have been sitting cross-legged on the futon in my apartment grading student papers. Lying there, I was grateful I didn’t have a dog that needed to be let out at any particular time. I remembered how – before I was a teacher, a role model — I liked a little spontaneity.
Eventually, Jed finished.
I couldn’t wait to see it.
I had shown Jed that initial sketch, but he had taken some liberties.
And he left me with a permanent lopsided heart.
I paid seventy-five dollars in cash for my little act of rebellion.
Initially, I was annoyed by its wrongness.
But I quickly grew to love it.
And twenty years later, each time I look at my tattoo (that has become even more crooked over time), I remember a lazy day in New Orleans. An in-between time, when I was neither wife nor mother but dangerously free.
My tattoo reminds me of a place I love fiercely. It reminds me how love without patience and care can become unbalanced. Most of all, my tattoo reminds this Type A control-freak that when a person acts impulsively, sometimes the results can be pleasantly imperfect.
What do you think about tattoos? Art or self-mutilation?
• • •
I so rarely have time to do the fabulous prompts from Red Writing Hood, but this week, it spoke to me. The assignment: Write a piece in which a tattoo figures prominently in 300 words.
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