Unequivocally Ambiguous

Humorous Stories on Parenting, Culture and Life

The First Man I Saw With a Tattoo or of the Ubiquitousness of Ink

by | Mar 1, 2024 | Life | 0 comments

Ink Like Commitments Part III (26/40)

I remember the first time I saw a man with tattoos. I stood in line with my dad to get into the movie theater. I want to tell you the movie I was there to watch was Naked Gun 2–1/2, but I know it wasn’t.

Naked Gun was the first movie I remember watching, even though I was seven, and my parents thought it was okay to let me watch it. Also, I saw Naked Gun on a showing close to midnight, and on this specific day, we were there for the matinee.

My dad loved the movies and the matinee. He would go to the movie theater early, stay there, and watch three or four movies.

My mom, not so much.

When my parents were together, my mom would go with my dad and promptly fall asleep on his shoulder once the movie started.

I was there with my dad, and we were waiting to be let in when the man walked by us. A shoosh fell over the entire line. We all looked at this man as if he was a scary, thug-ish alien.

He walked around with a wide gait strut — the type that didn’t go forward but sort of hobbled sideways. It wasn’t efficient, but it was wide. It would come out of his hip and to the side and then advance a little towards the front, and then the next leg would do the same.

He had tattoos, and at that time in our society, it meant he was a scary man living on the fringes of society. He also had a bandana, sunglasses, and a vest. I don’t think he had a shirt on, and I can’t remember whether the vest was leather, pleather, or jean. Either option was way too hot for our city’s Caribbean heat.

Back then, this was the archetypical outfit of a motorcycle rider.

Now, everything about that archetype has changed. Now riders are great philanthropists. Sure, they are prone to violence, they violate all sound ordinances, and most of them steal a little on the side. But a few of them use their image to raise money for social causes.

Back then, almost no one had tattoos.

Now, almost everyone has tattoos. I am sure things have changed in Barranquilla. Before leaving, tattoo parlors were popping up all around the city.

Then I came to the States, and almost everyone I met had a tattoo. They seem to give them away for free when you buy a box of donuts and a gallon of milk at the store.

I’m only joking.

Tattoos are extremely expensive, and people sometimes even choose to stop eating so they can afford to put something on their skin that tells others something about their identity. In this case, the message is, “I don’t know how to prioritize my spending.”

Back then, someone covered in tattoos was scary, and if you saw them up close, you were probably in trouble.

Now, someone covered in tattoos means you are in a gentrified area of town, and a good cup of coffee is probably not too far away.

Some of the nicest people I have met are covered in tattoos.

But why so many people with tears on their cheeks?

Somehow, somewhere, I learned that a tattooed tear on a person’s face meant that they had killed someone. But there are so many people with tears on their faces that it is hard to fathom how these people would have killed anyone.

I wonder if they even know what that tattoo means.

Maybe nobody told them, and they were sitting there with an entire paycheck wondering, “I need to spend this on a tattoo even though I will have to give my entire paycheck away and not eat food until my next paycheck. But what tattoo? Oh, I know, I’m often sad, so how about making it permanent so the world can see it?”

And right there, they get a tear on their cheek.

If you go for one, why not go for more? The person who wants to show the world they can put a tear on their face should paint many, many tears falling from their eyes to their chins. If you commit to something, you might as well do it all the way.

Maybe that wasn’t it.

Maybe they knew precisely what tear meant and decided to do it anyway.

This person was tired of getting cut off in line at the coffee shop and brainstormed ways to earn more respect; they landed on “Well, I can kill someone. Specifically, I can kill this person who cut off in front of me. Ooooorrrrr…. I can pretend I killed someone.”

And there you have a tear rolling down your cheek so that you can get your crème brûlée latte faster.

Why work on yourself? Why learn to enforce boundaries? Why stop wearing that cologne? When you can pretend you killed someone and let crowds spread around you.

I don’t know if the next generations coming behind us will make any judgments on people with tattoos covering their faces, heads, scalps, and necks.

I don’t have any judgments against those people, either.

If I was more courageous, I might even consider having a tear of my own.

But I’m not.

And that’s why I just wait a few more minutes for my no-room, medium Americano.


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