Only Parents, Children, and Dead People (1)


Left Arm – 20’s Girl Profile – 23Years Old

My husband asks me if I’m sure.

I have waited, I tell him, 23 years.  I want some control over my body.  Tattoos you choose.  The size of your hips, the curve of your back, freckles that spread across your body like buckshot – those things you cannot.  Pale skin that bruises easily, scars that span the surface of your skin, the permanent reminders of scrapes and cuts you never asked for.

We are young parents and partners stumbling through adulthood, playing house with teacups and silver creamer sets, baby swings and blankets.  I bear scars from pregnancy, claw marks that stretch across my stomach, thighs, and hips.  I know urban punkers and Goths who pay to be decorated with elaborate scars and designs.  Mine came naturally, reminders of an 8lb 10 oz. girl – Astera, and a 10lb 3 oz. boy – Ezra.  I have waited, waited for years as my friends inked their bodies with mistakes, two-headed parrots with flat beaks, medieval daggers crudely carved with an ink pen and hair dryer motor in the basement of their parent’s split-level home.  Cheap crosses that blur and spill across shoulder blades and ankles, little hearts misshapen and blue.

I have earned this moment: doling out $250 dollars to sit in a chair that smells of ink and Vaseline, cigarettes and bleach.  I choose the profile of the 20’s flapper girl, because she has tangerine hair and blue eyes and pouty red lips like mine.  She is young, but possesses an even confidence I lack, has a gaze that promises endless possibilities and alternate endings. She is centered and even-tempered, unlike me and my many moods that smash against the world like wild waves slapping the shore.

My husband asks me if I am sure, if I want to do this.  He used to have razored, bleach blonde hair and sleep in the back of a van in Berkeley. His rag-tag team of friends with lanky arms and skate boards helped him tattoo smiley faces and a question mark on his leg when he was sixteen.  They used India ink and a red-hot sewing needle.

A few years later, he moved to Vermont and worked in a maple syrup factory. He saved his paychecks and got a tattoo in some lady’s dingy kitchen with gingham curtains and a yellowed floor.  He sat in a folding chair, his pants rolled to his knee as she sank the ink into his ankle and leg – a stale, blue snake coiling around to his knee. With clumsy movements, she tried to cover the teen-age reminders of too much malt liquor and time that caused so many questions when he wore shorts.   She never finished it. A back woods boy with a flannel was calling her name, so she said she’d finish it next time. He was left with a thick, winding body, a shaky tail, but no head.  No beady eyes or flickering tongue.  He’s been swearing he’ll finish it for years.  Yet, he keeps asking me if I am sure.


7 Responses to “Only Parents, Children, and Dead People (1)”

  1. I absolutely love the imagery of the flashback, and how you tied it all together at the end. Unlike the title of your blog, this piece is neither broken or in need of repair — it’s perfect.

  2. 3 BehindMyBooks

    This was fantastic, and I love the complexity of time in it! Your tattoo sounds magical as well!

    • That’s great. The entire piece is structured around tattoos and time as well, so keep reading. I’ll be slowing down on the posts a bit, so look for it in your reader.

  3. Really great imagery. As one who is inked I liked it a lot and you hit the right notes with the details. I just wrote a bit on one of mine yesterday – not nearly so elegantly. I rely on images and you create images in my mind. Well done.

  4. Great piece! I really enjoyed the imagery and the detail. Great job.

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