I’m getting a tattoo.
Yes, I’m going to have an artist insert needles containing inks of multiple colors deep into my skin to create a design I’ll carry with me until the day I die.
And to think, my ex, Shelby, used say I was scared of commitment.
I’m not. What I am is infatuated…with the new checkout girl at the electronics store who, coincidently, has a tattoo of a butterfly on her left shoulder.
I should probably explain…
Anastasia has been working cash register number eight for about two weeks now. And she’s a vision. Long blonde hair. Body so hot it could set off our fire sprinklers. A smile that lights up the room–and since the electronics store is about 26,000 square feet, that’s a lot of wattage.
Working in customer service, I rarely visit the main floor. But luckily, I get to see Anastasia in the employee lounge. She eats lunch there every day at 1 p.m. Now that I’m wise to her habits, I know just when to stop by.
And Anastasia was there yesterday, Friday, with a couple of co-workers, Chad and Manju, when I decided to chat her up.
For some reason, the conversation turned to tattoos. Chad, the stoner dude who works in the stock room, has a sleeve tattoo featuring his favorite cartoon characters.
Starting at his wrist, and moving up his shoulder is Sponge Bob, the Simpsons and members of the Smurf family. When he’s stoned, I’ve seen Chad amuse himself for hours, flexing his arm so it appears Smurfette is doing something unmentionable to Homer.
Manju, one of the store’s tech guys, doesn’t sport any tattoos. “Why,” he asked, “would you put a bumper sticker on a Ferrari?”
Now don’t get me wrong. I like Manju, but he’s a few bytes short of a total reformat.
Naturally the conversation turned to Anastasia and her tattoo. She said her butterfly represented freedom and individuality since no two are alike…like a fingerprint.
“What about you, Kyle?” Anastasia asked. “Have you got tattoos anywhere on your–” Before she could finish, Chad and Manju started laughing.
“Kyle? A tattoo?” said Manju. “He’s the most button-down, conservative guy I know. The only thing you’ll ever find on his skin is soap.”
Anastasia placed her hand on my arm and asked, “Is that true, Kyle?”
“Well… I’m not opposed to tattoos…or soap.”
“Guys with tattoos are hot,” Anastasia said. “Look at people like Tommy Lee, Travis Barker or David Beckham… Tatted men are rebellious, independent free thinkers…and just more fun.”
“That’s me,” I said. “The real Kyle has a wild, untamed side.”
Maybe it was my imagination, but as I talked I could swear Anastasia was getting turned on. The look on her face told me what I had to do.
“It’s settled then,” I said in my most defiant, authoritative voice. “Everyone… Employee lounge. 1 p.m. Monday. Be here. You’re going to see a Kyle Benson you never knew existed. I’m getting inked.”
And that’s why, right now, I’m standing on Melrose Avenue in front of a place called Skin Deep Tattoos.
It’s a bit of a dive. And, to be honest, I’m having second thoughts–which is why I’m pacing outside the shop, trying to get myself pumped up.
“I’m bad. I’m tough,” I say looking at a reflection of myself in the store’s window. “I’m a rebel. I can do this… I am a badass, I’m evil–”
“Son,” came a voice from nearby, “you’re not Evel. I am.”
I turned around, and standing in front of me was a tall man with wavy brown hair. He wore a white leather jumpsuit decorated with red and blue rows of stars shaped like a V on his chest.
It was Evel Knievel, the iconic motorcycle daredevil.
My Paranoiac Schizophrenic Disorder always seems to conjure up someone when I need them most. And now, as I felt the need for a dose of courage, standing before me was a man who knew no fear.
“Listen, boy,” said Evel, “what are you doing in the middle of the street, walking around like a warthog in heat?”
“I promised my workmates I’d get a tattoo,” I explained, “but I have a wildly irrational fear of needles.”
Evel looked at me like I was speaking another language.
“Fear!” he chortled. “I earned my living facing fear. Do you know what it’s like to look death in the eye?”
Well, yeah… By now, PSD had brought me face to face with countless dead people. But saying so was just going to piss off Evel, so I kept quiet.
Besides, Evel was on a roll. “During my career,” he bellowed, “I constantly outwitted the Grim Reaper! Was I scared when I jumped the fountains at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas?”
“Hell, no!!” Evel exclaimed.
“Not that it matters now,” I said, “but back then that jump nearly killed you.”
“Look, I’ve had more broken bones than any man on earth—37 in all. I’ve spent more time in hospitals than most doctors. And I’ve been stitched together so often I’m more quilt than human.”
Obviously, Evel knew something about facing fear. I had to ask: “So, how do I get past my nerves?”
“Embrace your fear. Make it your friend. A little needle isn’t going to hurt you. Besides, once you give your word, there’s no turning back. I never backed out of a jump I promised to make.”
Evel was right. I couldn’t back out. If I didn’t show up at work sporting ink, I’d never live it down. And I’d never have a shot with Anastasia.
Taking a deep breath, I entered the shop, sat in a chair, and told the proprietor–a guy named “Wren” Brandt–I wanted a tattoo. Something that symbolized courage. As Evel Knievel looked on, I settled on the image of a lion.
“Good choice,” said Evel, giving me a thumb’s up. “You’ll be fine.” Then he walked out.
Through the window, I saw Evel pop a wheelie on his Harley, waving at me as he drove off.
I was feeling pretty good, until I asked Wren if this was going to hurt.
“Of course,” he said. “We’re talking needles piercing human flesh.”
Wren dabbed a cotton ball with alcohol and cleaned my arm. “Let’s get started.”
He reached for his tattoo machine, pushed a button and a dull, whirring noise filled the air. Wren brought the needle to my arm and it pricked my skin.
Suddenly, I felt light-headed…
“Hey, dude,” said Wren, “you okay? You’re looking kinda flush…”
Oh, crap… Feeling dizzy. Room spinning.
“Dude! Dude! Wake up…”
* * *
It’s Monday afternoon, and I’m about to face the music in the employee lounge. I walk in at exactly 12:59, and, sure enough, everyone is waiting–Chad, Manju, and, of course, Anastasia.
The trio can’t wait to see my tattoo, and I’m not one to disappoint. As they gather around, I slowly roll up my sleeve.
“Voila!” I say, displaying my arm.
“I don’t see anything,” said Manju. Chad leaned in, eyeballing my flesh as well. “Where is it?”
“Right here,” I said, pointing…
“Looks like a freckle,” said Anastasia.
“That’s no freckle,” I said. “It’s very rare design called…a Danger Dot.”
Everyone laughed. I was feeling a little humiliated by the whole affair…until I noticed Anastasia’s butterfly tattoo.
Last week it was on her left shoulder, but today it was on the right. Surprised, I asked what the story was.
“Oh, Kyle, I didn’t want to tell you, but it’s a temporary tattoo. They’re indistinguishable from real ones.”
I was shocked.
“I’m scared of needles,” Anastasia laughed. “Always have been.”
Right then, I knew I’d found a kindred spirit. Over lunch, Anastasia and I were going to have a lot to talk about.