Tattoos can be beautiful accentuations of art upon one’s body. They display personality, expectations of person and representations of who we feel we are, or were. They can also be ugly markings of regret when no thought is put into placing them on our bodies, like stamps suggesting our identities. What not many know though, is that tattoos’ can carry a curse! It is said that they hold the power to break-up anyone’s relationship! All one must do is tattoo the name of a lover or a partner into their flesh, and then the curse takes hold. It is quite reasonable to assume that the couple will eventually meet the end of their relationship with one another. I spent about ten years in and out of a bad relationship with a tattoo artist, and this scenario I have seen over and, painfully, over again.
I would sometimes warn the beautiful young women of the curse before they took the dive into the artist’s chair. “You know, it is bad luck to get his name tattooed onto your ankle.” I would say, or your neck, or your wrist. But not one of them ever listened to me, so I eventually stopped. Besides, I would be going out to sushi later with their money; why bother, I thought. I was the artists girlfriend. I had seen lots of tattoos, good and bad, and I stopped having any emotion attached to them. Jeremy was the artists name, and he would never tattoo me. “As soon as you mark a woman she will leave you” he would say, so I never got marked. I stayed a clean slate, an unpainted canvas.
I can’t tell you how many times I was asked by the shop’s clientele why I had no tattoos. It only seemed natural for a girlfriend to demonstrate her own art work. But, I was never granted a tattoo because Jeremy said that if he tattooed me, I would leave. So my general answer became “A man will mark his bitches, but not his Queen.” People would usually laugh at that remark, but only a little. I often wondered what they were really thinking. The truth was, that being that man’s queen was a heavy cross to bear, a burden that would take the sunshine right out of my soul.
Years of discord came and went. Children were woven into those years as well.
I left him for the safety of my home in Virginia more times than I can remember. My father left me and my sibling a house hidden deep into the hills of the Shenandoah. It was my haven; where I could hide. But, I would always be drawn back to him and to the Southwest. Something as certain as the spring following the winter — I couldn’t say no to him.
There were the promises of drinks by the Florida beach, Austin Texas, and watermelon sunsets when I arrived back home to Albuquerque. We could travel like gypsies for a while, before the truth would catch up to us and before the cold would set in. I had a wild love for that man that I could not deny; but oh, when the chill of fall would set into his heart, there was no sunshine left anywhere. He could be like a big black ball with sharp metal spikes that would knock me down and roll upon me like a machine. He was cold black mornings and luke-warmed tea — he could make me feel more alone standing beside him then I could ever feel when I was by myself. I was often aware that I could not give him what he wanted either. Be it looks, personality, or a more entertaining companionship.
We were two strings tuned to the wrong instruments, and unless we were in a unique situation, our sound was unsavory. Though I was his ‘Queen,’ his beautiful clients seemed to harness more of his attention than I could. I would slowly sink into the quicksand of my own insecurity, forgetting who I was.
His tongue was the whip he chose to sting me with, and his insanity grew stronger while getting drunk on my tears. I became callused to his strikes, slowly recognizing them as normal. Who was I anyway? Just some girl lucky to have a guy like that. Mr. Tattoo. That father of my child.
When I was younger, I had loved being me. I knew my God, and I hoped that life was going to be a big grand story — one where I was traveling all over creation, beaming with life! I didn’t mind that I was not the prettiest girl, because my liking of myself went deeper than that. I rarely even thought about it. I was free then. Somewhere though, I had forgotten my God. Somewhere, I had forgotten myself. I had experienced rejection. I had subconsciously fallen into the mental abuses I had witnessed as a kid, the ones that I blocked from my reality. So, from there, with my new-found and forced love, I tried to contort my being to fit into a mold that I didn’t even understand, and still don’t to this day. In fact, I died my rich dark hair blond for so many years that it started to fall out.
When I tried hard, I could bring out the beauty in him. His laugh, his love of gardening and building his adobe house up. But my crossroads I could see out of any window, anywhere. I could stay in his darkness that was a peculiar mix of pleasure and intense pain, or I could venture away from him into the light of life, the unknown, where I could make my own way once again. The home my father left me in Virginia was a stability that nobody was selling. It was real, and would beat upon my conscience over and over, until it only seemed self-defeating to stay with the man. After almost ten years he still wouldn’t marry me, and I don’t think he could ever see who I really was deep-down. He could not see it, because in the truth of my existence, I was free and he wasn’t. Being chained into the house of insecurity he had made me was really just my illusion.
It was time to end our circus act. I needed to stake a claim on my home in Virginia once again…but this time for good. It was time to grow up. Unfortunately, choosing this path once and for all would not be a swift and painless ordeal. Like a tumor that takes hold of the body, I would not be able to up and leave without a fight, without a surgery, and without remembering who I was.
My dignity was stripped as I dove into a dumpster beside the busy 4th street to claim the remainder of my few belongings that were dumped into the tattoo shop’s trash. I didn’t look at the passing traffic to see their faces as they witnessed me. I didn’t look anywhere but in the dumpster. He had thrown away all that I owned, which at that point mostly fit into a couple of laundry baskets. I was reduced to diving into a hazardous waste dump — filled with bloody gloves and used tattoo needles — retrieving anything that was once mine. My subconscious kicked in and flew me to somewhere else that chilly day. Things that couldn’t touch me were the bloody gloves. The ink and blood smeared napkins. Empty coke cans and cigarette ashes. My clothing. A half empty shampoo bottle. Needles. Enquiring faces in passing cars. Bloody gloves. Mascara running from my eyelashes. I wasn’t there so it couldn’t touch me.
I lived in my car for almost two weeks before finding a small apartment to regroup my life in.
I was forced into the big courtroom battle, the one where people who have children go. I would have easily left the state of New Mexico and his piercing grip on me, but he filed a motion to keep the kids in the state. I was torn at with the claws of blood-sucking lions. Having no money to hire my own lions, I represented myself, like a shorn sheep. I remembered my God and called out to Him like a drying river. My God must have remembered me, because I began to gain momentum that I never imagined. I quickly became a warrior again, even though I was not broken but shattered. I looked past my poverty, my loneliness, the battle and my rejected defeats. The rejection I had witnessed in my mother and could now call my own.
His lawyers began to lose footing. Their once shocking attacks on my character became sloppy, and it became easy for me to point out their folly to the judge. I did not have much money, but I had my God on my side. Their sulfurous ways eventually led Jeremy himself to fire them, going so far as to write an apology to our judge for the dishonest defacement of my character. After showing up and living through the court room battle of my life, I won my freedom back. My Lawyer was also my restorer, my strength and the One who called me to remember who I was.
The road home was not easily obtained that time around, so I needed to ensure that I would not tread down the old one again, lest the next time it destroy me.
“I’m so sorry woman, I love you so much! Let’s forget this craziness and start over again.” His words played on my heart strings that beautiful song — again! The pipers song of love and hope and fun and feeling alive — oh! That deceiving song.
“Well,” I said, “I am going to leave for a year or so I think. Gonna go back to Virginia to heal up” I said, nodding my head with the simplicity he hated. “But I will be back, and we will get married then. Before I go though, I would like to get my tattoo.” My words comforted us both, even though we both knew that once the exchange took place, it would be the end of our story together. We both put away the sadness of the truth. Though ours was a painful story, it was a long story that had at some points been fun, and for quick moments in time, happy even.
Our last night together was spent with him in my small apartment kitchen, etching the reflection of my freedom upon my arm. It was a girl beautifully decorated, dancing in an almost contorted angle. I thought she looked mysterious, and beautiful. When he was done, his bloody gloves were tiredly thrown into my trash. Latex smacking as a true surgeon would do after severing some infected limb or tumor from someone’s body. Then, with one the last tormenting embrace, he left. I and my children moved to Virginia the next day.