tattoos and changes

It was June 1st
I remember it very well. The truck had just left and I finished moving the rest of my belongings into a small two-bedroom apartment in the upstairs of a private home. The rooms were somewhat small and the kitchen was even smaller. The white walls were freshly painted and the house smelled from wet paint.
Man, that place was empty….
The wood floors were clean and the bright sunlight pushed through the partially opened windows.
I was alone for the first time. Suddenly, everything became very real to me. Everything, from the close of my marriage to the fears of being a bad father.

I moved from a large home with a two car garage and found myself in a small apartment located on the edge of my old town.
It was familiar to me.
There was something poetic to my return, and rather than sit and listen to the echoing of my empty apartment, I picked up my car keys, and then I decided to drive wherever the car would take me.
At first, I drove passed the obvious places. I drove passed my old home on Merrick Avenue. I passed the 7-11 on Front Street, and then I cut through the different side streets.
I drove by the neighborhood sumps where I used to hide as a kid. Then I passed the park on Prospect Avenue and the wrought iron fence where I was taken into police custody for the first time.

I circled by the Bowling Alley, Pathmark, and Mister Donut. I made sure to drive down Glenn Curtis Boulevard as well as pass The Nassau Coliseum. And though decades had gone by since my time in the town of East Meadow, I felt as if I was remembered and my return was welcomed.

I remember this day perfectly.

This was the day of my first tattoo.
I sat in the chair, waiting for an odd looking girl with pretty features but bizarre hair. She talked loudly and the wooden heels beneath her open-toed shoes clapped against the tiled floor of the tattoo shop.
I had no idea what to expect. I had no idea what the pain would be like, or what the tattoo machine sounded like when its needles clashed against my skin.

She asked, “Are you ready, darling,” as she revved the foot pedal that starts the machine. I heard the sound of electricity humming away, and as the artist leaned down, slowly moving onto my skin, I quickly felt the pins burning along the design on my flesh.
I felt her drag the needles across my spine, and though yes, this hurt, I suddenly felt free. I felt as if my life were finally my own.
As long as I could remember, there was always someone there telling me what to do and when to do it. But for the first time in my life, there was no one around to tell me how to live or what to look like.

I saw this as beautiful.
I saw this as a perfect version of my own freedom.

There are those that disagree with my choices in body art. There are some that disapprove, and there are some that admire the story on my skin. But either way, none of the details on my skin were etched for anyone else to approve of but me…
This was the day when I decided what I wanted to do.
This is when I decided to push myself away from an old life and begin a new one.
I decided to walk away from certain people, places, and things.
I decided I would never allow anyone to put me down.
I would not put my trust where my trust did not belong.
I would not give in or go gentle.
I decided I was going to live my life to the best of my ability.

Immediately after my tattoo session, I wrote the words, “My redemption has nothing to do with your response.”
And what I meant by that was I will not be swayed or put down by what other people say or do.

I wrote, “I am always the square root of my own equation.”
My life begins with me and my happiness does not have to be hinged on anyone else.

I saw this as moment my turning point.
The designs in my skin tell a story. They define my struggles with good and evil.
They mark the importance of my princess, and queen.
As well, the story on my skin acknowledges that I am a son as well as a father.

I see that apartment and its emptiness as a metaphor; that was me. I was new, but empty
Throughout time, I have been able to fill those empty rooms with memories and loved ones.
I am far from alone.
I am remembered and loved.

This morning, I realized the date and then my mind shook.
Today is my Old Man’s Birthday.
I don’t think The Old Man would like my tattoos, but like I said, not everyone likes tattoos.

I just hope he’s proud of who I’ve become.

Miss you, Pop.

Happy Birthday….

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