Memories Made of Ink and Skin



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Heated. That’s what my dad was when I came home with my first tattoo.  The ironic thing was that my step-mom had not only taken me to get the tiny turtle permanently emblazoned onto my ankle, but she had also set up the appointment and paid for it too.  To this day, I look at that small Celtic-style turtle and have fond memories of the buzzing pain that marked it into my skin as well as the image of my friend, Richard, and I drawing it during Speech 101 during my freshmen year of college.

Since that first tattoo, I have ventured three more times into that chair to feel that annoying, bee stinging feeling that presses, needles, a rainbow of ink under my skin.  I guess I like nature because all of my tattoos are reminiscent of animals or the outdoors.  I have also drawn every one of my tattoos which is strange since I don’t consider myself an artist of any kind.

My next tattoo was a tiny flower that found a home on the top of my foot.  My best friend, Jessica, and I sat for hours drawing pictures of figures, images that we might consider inking on our bodies.  We ended up with a flower I drew that contained our initials.  People say it looks like a golf flag with its tiny leaf sticking off the side, but I just think of a crazy night with my friend and the excitement of imagining a “friends forever” scenario.

I have a butterfly on my back between my shoulder blades.  It’s not a traditional butterfly–more like a tribal/Celtic style.  It’s purple and I remember going back to complain that the artist hadn’t added enough color.  He added more a week later, and I can say that it hurt more the second time. I can’t see it, so sometimes I forget it exists, that is until one of my students notices it and says some smart ass remark.  Teenagers for you.  Since most of my students have tattoos, you would think it wouldn’t be such a big deal, but it is.

My last tattoo is a memorial, but not to someone who has died or to someone who has left me.  I have ocean waves in the center of the sun inked on my calf.  My first year of teaching was at a temporary position on the coast.  I’ve never wanted to live anywhere but near the ocean, so it felt like kismet to find my first job and house only a few miles from the crashing waves.  Sadly, I only spent one year teaching those fantastic kids, but I wanted to remember them, to remember the lessons I learned during that year and with those students.  One of my favorite students said to me on the last day, “Don’t cry. You shall be remembered.” This was what I wanted–for my students to not just remember me but to remember the impact I had on their lives, to remember that they are special and unique and powerful.  Those last four words surround my sun–You shall be remembered.

This winter, I will tattoo three little birds on my shoulder.  They will be flying away–flying into the sky of whatever comes their way.


Written in response to the Daily Prompt–Tattoo


The Streetlight


The following story was written in 2007 during a class I took on teaching writing.  My professor used the class and her teaching to model the methods to create a writing workshop for students.  As such, we were required to write in the various modes: expository, persuasive, and narrative.  The first two modes were easy since I’d been writing essays since high school, but we were supposed to write a creative narrative.  I hadn’t written a narrative since high school (1998), and I hadn’t written imaginatively since…well, I couldn’t remember the last time I had written a story. What follows is a very embellished version of a night I spent with some awesome people.


“We have to get rid of that light!” Jess yelled, her eyes blazing.

“I know, I know. But first we need a plan.  I mean…it’s not gonna be easy.  It’s so high,” I said.  Four hours ago, Jess and I had been driving around trying to figure out what to do, and now we were the ringleaders of a crazy plot to shoot out a street light in the middle of the night.

“I think Ian’s got a sling shot,” Tyler beamed at Jess, through the chunky strands of hair hanging in his hopeful eyes.  All the boys wanted her.  Her model-length legs alone could make men weak, but add in her blonde hair, trim body, and blue eyes, and she became every guy’s dream.  Tyler loved her more than the rest (potentially even more than I did), so he had made it his mission to solve our street light issue.

“Well, go get it!” I roared, rolling my eyes.  Most of the time, I had little patience for Jess’s suitors.  I guess I should have gone easier on Tyler.  He couldn’t help his admiration.  No one could.  Scowling, Tyler turned and headed for the house, his enormous shoulders hunched in defeat.

Ian was the only one of us who lived free from parental control, so spending time at his house always made us feel older.  We thought of it as a real test for adulthood without actually committing.  His house wasn’t a house but a trailer, with light brown metal siding and dark brown metal trim.  The door was a sliding version that barely slid.  But, the front porch was awesome.  Benches encompassed the walled-in wooden deck that opened to the surrounding wilderness.  A slightly peaked roof covered the entire structure that Ian had furnished like a living room with a worn out green and orange couch that looked like it belonged in the 1970’s.

Jess and I watched as Tyler lumbered up the steps to find Ian in the tiny trailer that was filled to capacity with about twenty of our closest friends.  Ian’s parties were epic because, without parents, the possibilities were vast and thrilling and always unpredictable.

“What now?” Jess asked as she stared up at the silver street light.

“We wait for Tyler.  If he can’t find the sling shot, we’ll come up with plan B,” I said.

“What’s plan B?” she asked.  Sometimes Jess was too full of ridiculous questions despite our best-friend status.

“I don’t know. I can’t really think straight.  Why are we doing this anyway?”  Now it was my turn for questions.  We had been drinking since we had arrived, and I suddenly couldn’t remember the why of our plan.

“Ugh, it was your idea,” Jess grumbled.  “It was too bright on the porch, and we decided to get rid of that light!” she said pointing up at the glowing bulb.

“Oh, yeah,” I exclaimed, a grin spreading across my lips.  We all wanted to sleep on the porch, so Ian had pulled a mattress out on the deck.  It was the middle of summer and the setting of the sun did little to cool the air.  Plus, Ian’s trailer was a metal box void of air conditioning, so it sucked to spend more than five minutes inside.

“Where the hell is Tyler?” I said, my eyes surveying the trailer.  We had been standing there for at least five minutes in the middle of the road that ran alongside the house.  I could hear the music pulsating from Ian’s speakers and the voices of jubilant partygoers, but I couldn’t see Tyler.  “Let’s go inside, Jess.”

“Alright.” She turned, and we linked arms, ready to stagger up the inclined drive toward the gathering.  Despite the haze of alcohol, or maybe because of it, I felt safe and happy standing there in the night air with Jess.  I was proud that she was my friend, (even with all the annoyance of her admirers, her way-too-obvious questions, her aggravatingly super-star beauty), because she was simply great to be around.  I guess I was an admirer too.

“There’s Tyler!” Jess’s voice jolted me from my thoughts. She had stopped walking and was now pointing at the front door donning her flawless smile.  Tyler ran out the door, sling shot in hand, and he wasn’t alone.  I could see my oldest friend Noah’s lanky silhouette in the doorway behind Tyler.  But my mouth dropped a little when I saw Ian’s tan face completing the trio.  I understood Noah’s interest because, despite his quiet, unsuspecting appearance, his schemes were unforgettable.  But, I couldn’t believe Ian was in on it.  I had only known him for a year, and I was new to his reactions.  I thought he would have objected to our decision to break the light so near his house because he would probably be the one to face any repercussions that resulted from our little plan.

“Ian, are you coming? Did Tyler…um…tell you what we’re doing?” I stammered, afraid he would blow the plan.

“Hell yeah! Let’s do it!” He bounded down the stairs two at a time.  Noah and Tyler followed, and we all walked down to the road.  I smiled, excited to know that Ian could be as joyously reckless as the rest of us.  Half stumbling towards our luminous enemy, I had never felt more like myself.  I felt close to these people who I had chosen, who mattered for my reasons alone.  I was finally a part of something beyond a conspiracy to destroy public property.  Maybe we were all a little crazy–just look at our plan–but I guess that’s what brought us together.

“Ok, what’s our ammo?” Noah asked Tyler.  They both turned to me for the answer.  After all, it was my plan.  I looked around and bent down to pick up a sizable hunk of rock from the gravel driveway.  I examined my find and handed it to Ian.

“Your shot,” I said as he took the rock from my hand, accepting the challenge.  Ian rolled the “bullet” around in his palm, and its tiny mineral specks glimmered in the street light’s glow.  Tyler handed him the sling shot, and Ian loaded the shiny black metal weapon.  It fit over his wrist in order to stabilize the shot, and the band was thick, yellow, and ultra-stretchy.  Ian fit the rock securely in the center of the band and raised his arm toward the light.  He closed one eye and stuck his tongue out the corner of his tightened lips.  A lock of his black hair fell to his forehead as Ian tilted his head, pulled back on the band, and took aim.

Time slowed as we watched in silence.  The rock floated through the air in a perfect arc, and smashed the center of the bulb.  It was the perfect shot.  The lamp flickered a few times and sparked a few more, but the light slowly faded, plunging the five of us into the full meaning of night.

“That was awesome,” Jess whispered through the darkness.

“Wow! That was crazy,” came another voice, but I had ceased listening.  The world had suddenly stopped, and the moment became a memory.  Standing in the road, together with my best friends, under a sky overflowing with faraway stars, I burned their faces into my mind.  I couldn’t actually see them through the moonless night, but I didn’t really need to.

I imagined Jess’s eyes flashing with delight, and her golden hair dancing in the slight breeze, forcing goose flesh to break out over her exposed shoulders.  I saw Tyler’s wide body standing too close to her.  Maybe she was starting to give in.  His thick arms hung at his sides almost touching Jess’s bare skin, and he watched her instead of the street light, his gray eyes locked on her fuzzy outline, a smile curling the corners of his mouth.

And Ian, finally a full member of our odd little group, triumphantly held his arms above his head like a winning prize fighter, his perfect smile and sea blue eyes begging for reward.  Noah stood stoic, silent, relishing the destruction.  I can picture him with his arms crossed, staring at the shattered light with a sly smile, wishing it had been his idea.

We slowly walked back toward the house together, up the steep grave drive and the steps of the perfect porch.  Jess and I collapsed onto the mattress, exhausted in our accomplishment.  The party had died down, and soft music filtered out through the open windows.  The boys crumpled somewhere nearby–Tyler was never far from Jess–and I curled up under Ian’s white down comforter.  I sank into the serene darkness of the evening as sleep washed over me.  That night, I slept soundly dreaming of the distant stars and the closeness of my friends.


I have changed nothing except adding a few commas.  The English teacher in me can’t let that slide.