Only Parents, Children, and Dead People (7)


Left Forearm, Top – Virgin Mary – 28 Years Old

Impulsively, Derek and I get tattoos at a woman-owned shop off the French Quarter.  He gets his first one – Koi fish swimming in a circle, Yin and Yang like, spinning in swirling waves with foamy white crests.  I don’t what that image means to him.  I don’t ask.  But I know he is gentle and loves fish like a child, mesmerized by their movements.  I plan on getting my kids’ names on crosses, all Gothic and barbed with swirling banners.

The day I got my 20’s girl, Adam taught me a rule: only tattoo the names of parents, kids, and dead people.  Names that are permanent.  Names that are undeniable.  He told me the story of Buzzy, some big tough guy with arms like canons. He inked his wife’s name.  Then crossed it out.  He tattooed his second wife’s name.  Then crossed it out.  Soon, his arm looked like railroad tracks, all the names of his lover crisscrossed with lines of failure.

Yet, I’m afraid people will see the names on the cross and think my children are dead.  I am superstitious.  So is New Orleans.  I choose a Virgin Mary because it is Catholic here, Catholic on every corner with statues of weeping angels and saints and Mother Mary with flowing robes.  There are grottoes made of crushed shells and polished stones, tea and taper candles that drip white hot wax.  Tiny trinkets – silver coins and scraps of paper with prayers, colored glass stones and medallions.  Though I am not religious, I am sentimental.

The Virgin is angular with thin outlines, unlike the heavy lines of the sailor tattoos.  She has fine cheekbones and hands.  She looks Middle Eastern.  She has flowing, folding robes, blue like a tropical ocean.  Her eyes are closed, her lips full and gentle, her arms outstretched and welcoming.  She is barefoot.

I am trying to be different. I smile more, pop my psych pills faithfully.  I read bedtime stories to the kids three days a week.  I tell the truth.  But shadows of the past linger.  One look at my arms, my legs, the lines and colors that look like road maps, from the sassy promise of a sailor girl to the safety of an anchor, I am reminded of what I want, but never seem to get.

We leave New Orleans, a year into our relationship, with tattoos that don’t match.  I am too superstitious for that now.


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

  1. 1 pinklightsabre

    I like how you revealed the meaning of the title here, several posts in. Nice.

    • Thanks. It’s been hard breaking up these longer pieces into smaller chunks. They were meant to be read as a whole, so this part of the story, normally, would come quicker. However, I feel a long piece won’t suffice in this format. Glad you picked up on it.

  2. I picked up on it too! 😛

  3. I am trying to read everything I missed while having the flu. This thing hangs on forever. I have seen this title and wondered what it meant . Now I know.

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