Only Parents, Children, and Dead People (4)


Right Leg – Sailor Jerry Mermaid and Baby – 25 Years Old

I meet him at an AA meeting.  We are sitting next to one another in stiff folding chairs in the musty basement of a Lutheran church.  We stand out, bold against the background of beige walls and Jesus portraits layered with dust.  Xavier is short and thick with silver studs that line his lower lip and spider tattoos that crawl up his neck.  His hands are thick and covered in faded ink, blurry blue words and images I can’t make out.

I am wearing bright colors again, vintage dresses and knee-high boots, over-sized silver earrings that jangle when I move.  My lips are painted red, and sometimes, I smile now that I remember how to.

Six months earlier, I only cried.  I wore hospital pajamas and slippers, a plastic bracelet bearing my name.  There was plexiglass and locks and soft furniture you couldn’t hurt yourself with.  There were pills and a frizzy haired therapist who asked me why, why do you want to die? And looked over my shoulder and saw divorce papers and custody schedules, four in the morning drives to the drug dealer’s, and all I could say was, “Wouldn’t you?”

There were tests and psychological profiles taken in pencil.  Interviews with nurses taking notes, shrinks and medical students in white coats.  A kind doctor with long hair, a regiment of pills in paper cups and a 21-day stay in rehab.  And now meetings.

Xavier and I try to stifle smiles as the other drunks and addicts admit and detail the junkyard of their lives.  He is a druggie, an artist, a poet trying to make a name from himself in Minneapolis. He asks me to model for him, not naked, but as a tattoo model.  He’ll cut me a deal.  The bigger the piece, the better the price.

I have my daughter pick it out.  She’s six.  I tell her that someday, I will put her name on a banner underneath it.  She chooses a mermaid in an apron, topless, with a tow-headed baby in her lap.   Black hair, thick and tangled like seaweed, flows down her back.  The baby holds a rattle, wears a silly sailor hat.  They perch, perfect and still, the mermaid’s turquoise and gold tail wrapping around the over-sized anchor with red fins and a faded, wooden top.


One Response to “Only Parents, Children, and Dead People (4)”

  1. i am dying to see these tats

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