It was late. We did not pack very much. We were not planning on going for very long; I figured we could stay with some friends.
My brother had just been dumped by the girl who he thought he was going to marry. He was 20.
The girl was nice. She was big into Winnie the Pooh. Disney Pooh, not Classic Pooh; I never really understood her.
We were going to Colorado because it was different; there are big mountains to in Colorade and we needed a scene change. Mike was real sad. The bonding would do us good.
When we got there, we found the house my friend was staying at. She had just moved colleges and it was weird to see her in this state. Drunk, happy and free.
Mike and I scoped out the tattoo scene a bit. It was pre-Google, so we just had to talk to some people. We chose the tattoo shop nearest the bagel shop because we were hungry.
We asked the guy how much his rates were.
The price seemed both like an advantage and also questionable. Did Mike really want a tattoo from a guy who did not value himself so well?
But this was not a trip taken for sensibility. We were here to be reckless.
So we made an appointment and brought a couple of design ideas to the bagel shop.
And then headed back to get Mike’s tattoo.
I’ve always run faster than Mike.
When I was a kid, I would sometimes let him win a race.
Being the older brother is glorious territory.There is honor, no matter how badly you screw up.
Mike was a wreck, and even though he badly wanted a tattoo – he couldn’t decide on what to get.
The tattoo guy was only slightly irked.
I stepped in. I said I had an idea for a tattoo and I showed the guy my ring.
DOES THE SONG OF THE SEA END AT THE SHORE OR IN THE HEARTS OF THOSE WHO LISTEN TO IT
“Cool.” The guy said.
I told him about how my mom had given me the ring years ago, and although I had lost it dozens of times, I always found it – or it found me in many cases.
I didn’t tell him about how she had died. But I didn’t have to; tattoo artists are empaths. I can steel myself to no artist.
The guy set to work laying out the design on velum while Mike and I took my dog for a walk around the block. He hung outside, waiting for us tied to a street sign.
After the tattoo was done the artist pulled out a little vanity mirror to show off his talents.
It is no small feat lining up a band of equal proportion around a calf of unequal proportion. He was definitely proud.
But something was wrong. He said it needed color. He offered to do the blues and greens for free.
It was a gift.
For me at the time, it was a very significant gift, not because of the cash savings, but of the validation from this stranger; Oh how my mom was still alive in me, in my brother, and now in this tattoo guy.
PS: I lost the ring for good at an impromptu drum circle with some hobos on the Michigan Avenue Bridge in Chicago two weeks after returning home from our trip.