Only Parents, Children, and Dead People (3)


Anchor – Left Forearm – 24 Years Old

Eli buys me the anchor. He pays for it with his salary from his fancy computer job. An anchor to go with my sailor tattoos. I am becoming a collector, a gallery of old-time naval tattoos even though I’ve never crossed an ocean clutching my stomach or smelled the salt of tumultuous sea water. But I have been cross choppy waves, cold ocean sprays that splash my face and sting my eyes. I am navigating in the dark.

He wants matching tattoos, like silly lovers who carve their initials into a tree. Eli wants an anchor, small and stick-like, reminiscent of Popeye. The scrawny lines and size are comical on Popeye, but not on Eli. He arms as thin as spaghetti. He types all day long on a smooth keyboard. His fingers are soft. Not like my husband’s, who works construction and has perpetual cuts and scrapes.

I go first to the back of the tattoo parlor, Black Sabbath blaring from cheap speakers mounted to the walls. Adam chooses the image of the Anchor from the Anchor Steam Beer label. It is thick and strong, with edges and fins and a gold rope tied to the top. It is heavy, firmly rooting you wherever it drops, the only thing strong and safe enough from me to hold onto.

Eli is next. He goes to the back room, behind the velvet privacy curtain. I hold my arm in the air, freshly bandaged with paper towels and medical tape. I hear the familiar whir of the tattoo gun. It makes me nauseous and excited at the same time, opposing sensations that I’m oddly comfortable with. Eli is released from the chair in minutes. He emerges behind the drape with watery eyes, his face pale, his feet unsteady. On his forearm there are three skinny, black lines – a whisper of an anchor.

For the first time, I am embarrassed of him, of his weak chest and lungs, his impossibly thin arms that look nothing like my husband’s or Popeye’s or even Adam’s. I ask myself if this is worth it, if this affair is really worth it now that we have matching tattoos.


One Response to “Only Parents, Children, and Dead People (3)”

  1. My mom told me hind-sight is 20/20.

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