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Feb
21

the tattoo

Next to where she sat reclined the tattoo artist was busy assembling his tools; the machine, the inks, the needles and the stencils.

Outside the snow fell as if letting the world know it had nothing better to do. Worth noting as you’ll understand later.

She had chosen the tattoo artist because when she walked in Where It’s At was playing and he looked a little like Beck. More like a Napoleon Dynamite vibe truth be told, but definitely more than a passing resemblance to Beck. He was the only one in the shop that didn’t have a tattoo. She remembered the old expression about always going to the hair stylist of the person who has a nice haircut and wondered how she was applying that rule in this scenario.

He had greeted her with a friendly “What are we looking for today?” to which she produced a small piece of artwork depicting a child riding a sled down a hill. A cheery winter scene that seemed to exude movement and innocence.

“And where would you like it?” he asked.

“On my ribs” she replied, lifting up her shirt and pointing.

“That’s one of the more painful spots to get a tattoo you know” he said.

“That’s the point” was her response.

He nodded and began to sketch out the tattoo.

It was as painful as advertised and to take her mind off of it he asked her why she was getting the tattoo. What it meant to her. It was always good to get the client talking.

“When I was a teenager I was the last one of my friends to learn to drive. The idea of being behind the wheel terrified me. It didn’t help that my father wouldn’t take me out and teach me. It became a thing between the two of us. Then one day, during the worst snowstorm that we’d had in a decade he suddenly grabbed the keys and said that he wanted to teach me to drive. “Time for your lesson” he said. Complete whiteout conditions. It was absurd but he insisted. He took me to this giant church complex that had a huge parking lot. We were obviously the only ones out in the storm so we had it to ourselves. It was terrible. A disaster. I was scared and sliding all over the place. I couldn’t see more than two feet in front of the car. Finally he said that I’d learned enough and it was time to go home. I went to switch seats and he told me that I was going to drive home. I refused, saying there was no way I could do it. He just sat there. The two of us sat there for like twenty minutes until I started to cry. I thought that would be the end of it, he was usually a sucker for my tears, but instead he got mad and told me to drive the damn car home. So I did. It took me two hours to drive the five miles and we got stuck twice. It was the worst two hours of my life.”

The tattoo artist didn’t know what to say. He hadn’t been watching her facial expressions or listening to her vocal inflections as she talked, engrossed as he’d been in the tattoo, so he wasn’t sure what the point of the story was or how she felt about it. Now he was afraid to ask. In the background he heard the other artists and clients talking, the sound of needles puncturing skin and the small whimpers of the recipients.

She kept pretty quiet after that except for humming lyrics to a song through gritted teeth as he worked on a particularly sensitive spot.

“Hands down, Calechee bound

land-locked, kiss the ground

the dirt of seven continents going

round and round

go on ahead Mr. Citywide

hypnotized, suit and tied.”

Two hours later the tattoo was finished. She seemed to like it. He told her she took the pain like a champ. She paid him and started for the door. Outside the snow was really starting to come down so he called after her “Drive carefully”.

Without looking back she said “It’s too late for that.”

On the counter he saw she had written a little note at the bottom of the credit card receipt; “To appreciate the beauty of a snowflake it is necessary to stand out in the cold. Aristotle said that. Smart man.” Next to the quote was a smiley face.

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