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By now, it’s common knowledge that I have a tattoo (click here for picture), no news there. What you don’t know is who gave me the tattoo or what we talked about.
Lucky for you, ThatGirl
is all about over-sharing.
is all about over-sharing.
Most of the employees in the tattoo shop I visited are Adam Lambert lookalikes. The kids that work behind the counter are all about 18 years old, pierced/dyed/tattooed but obviously yuppies in disguise. Disgruntled rich kids from the ‘burbs. The shop itself is a boutique, with red velvet curtains on the booths, flat screened TVs, and spa chairs. Hardly a scary place.
Mr.TattooArtist did not fit that mold. He was not dressed in any kind of poser-wear like the others. He seemed more stereotypical of what I might think a tattoo artist would look like: shaved head, jeans, t-shirt, low key.
But… just like a trip to the hair salon, if you sit in someone’s chair long enough? You get to talking. Of course, when it comes to ThatGirl, it’s more like a Barbara Walters interview, because I’m very nosy curious. Like to know who I’m dealing with.
“How did you learn how to tattoo?”
My uncle brought a machine home and I just messed with it and taught myself. I practiced on myself and then did a lot of my friends.
Well, yeah. Gang members, actually.
“Gang members? Weren’t you scared?”
Nah. I was in a gang myself.
“A gang? Really? What was that like?” ThatGirl is nothing if not subtle and appropriate, Readers Reader.
It was bad. I did a lot of bad things, knew a lot of bad people. I got out, though.
This was very good news from where I sat… You know, in a chair with a needle on the other end of a gang member.
Mr.TattooArtist went on to tell me that when he was younger, he was a meth dealer and used all day long. He was extremely open with me. He told me how to make meth (I asked), and did you know that it’s just made with household chemicals? One of the ingredients he used was Drano. During this time, his best friend was shot and killed in a gang related incident. That was the final straw. He took six months and put his life back together. In the end? He married that man’s widow. They had always known each other, of course, and it was something good that came from all the sadness.
In all the time he was involved with gangs and drugs, he was never arrested. I said he was lucky, but he laughed and said no, not lucky — smart. He said he had a lot of tricks. They used “code” when texting each other. Then, he would put the meth in the change slot of a payphone, and the customer would take the drug and replace it with money.
Well, what if they didn’t? What if they just took the drugs and ran? Not good for them, he told me. He said he’d break bones or do whatever necessary to make it right.
Really? This was a teddy bear sitting in front of me. Holding my arm so gently in his hand that I couldn’t even tell he was doing anything at all, let alone poking me with a needle. A seemingly changed man in every way.
Before I left, he was kind enough to show me a photo of his sweet baby son. A boy who will never have to know the life his daddy had before he came along. A boy who is safe, and loved by his father in just the same way my kids are loved by their own dad. Mr.TattooArtist had so much pride as he told me all of the accomplishments his baby had already made — trying to sit up, holding himself up on his arms and looking around, rolling over…
Who says people can’t change? Not me, not anymore.
They’re just like us.