I am not going to lie. I knew.I always knew.

And as all good fairytale fans know,there are always signs if you know what you are looking for…..

There was something intoxicating and forbidden about them back then.An otherness that scared me and called to me siren sweet in equal measure. The way people parted around their thrumming presence like water around an immovable rock set in a fast running stream.I wanted that. I wanted that so much that I could taste it.

I am one thousand years old. Things were different then. What I loved had yet to be co-opted by the ones that spat upon me. Back then the marked were truly a band apart and to tar oneself with the same indelible brush  meant crossing over for keeps,never to return.

I was adopted at six weeks old into a family that had strong ties to the military.My taciturn grandfather was a decorated Major in the signal corp during World War Two.He served in the Pacific theater and came undone in a motorcycle accident.We did not like each other much as I was not of true Madden stock but I respected him greatly.  My uncles all went to military school as did their sons in turn. It was my youngest uncle,so handsome and reckless,the one who shone like a cheap cubic zirconia and had enough swagger to break and taint the tenderest of hearts,he was tattooed. I saw them smeared across his biceps  every summer and I wondered if that’s what made the men want to be his best friend and the ladies blush.

I wondered endlessly,was that were the magic came from or is that what brought it out?

All the bikers had them.That was just a given.I thought they were the be all and end all.I had devoured Hunter.S.Thompson’s “Hells Angels” in the sixth grade and decided that Sonny Barger was my real father and that one day he would find and claim me back into the leather wrapped fold… And their old ladies who were not so old and far from what I though a lady was meant to be by way of all the Byron that I had devoured. The punks locked forever in amphetamine amber of a London that they would never see or know in ’77 ,that I would see on the bus and outside the one cool record store in my Podunk town.Tartan clad birds of a paradise fallen fueled on lager and shitty sulphate speed.

Bon Scott had them.

And what it gave them? The allure and armor that it lent? Well,that was all I ever wanted right there.

I wanted to shine that bright and to be that feared. I wanted to have the secret sign hidden under my flannel sleeves ,the magic touch,the visual hand shake that granted entrance to the rooms where my money was no good,where I would sup with kings as Deep Purple jammed all night long .The deal that I would make with myself on and with the flesh that meant that I could never back down on rock’and’roll. Not just the music but the left hand path that went with it.

In the name of Ozzy,Elvis and Lemmy.Amen.

And at a held breath just under the age of fifteen (Ma,i am so sorry….) I did.

I had been kicked out of school,I believe,for seeing the lie. Those judgmental catholic child molesting motherfuckers could not wait to cut me lose. The fat balding polyester clad principle said that it was my choice,expulsion or criminal charges.My head was spinning like a tilt-a-whirl,my saint of a mother shell shocked by my side. They wanted me gone that bad. I walked. I was so young.Hung out to dry at fourteen.

During an abortive attempt at alternative education,merrily skipping my classes,I would go and hang around the one tattoo studio in the city.Creep up the dark stairwell that stunk of dirty mop water and bleach.A sullen and silent child I caused no ruckus and they let me stay. I think that they were astounded that I was there at all. Much like a  nun in a whorehouse.Incongruous. The head tattooist was a dark haired utterly foul tempered biker by the name of Lee. I would run errands for him and then go and hide in the restaurant across the way when I knew I was outstaying my welcome ,where I would hole up and write in what I believed was my exclusive booth and drink rot-gut whiskey for free (another story for another night right there…)

He is dead now but I still carry his blue mark and the shadow of his kindness to my childhood self. Ask me to show it too you some time.I am looking at it right now.A blue smudge on my left ankle surrounded by the other smudges that came a little later.I took small steps way back then.You had to earn it. Did he ever ask me how old I was ? No. I think that he recognized the hunger in me,the deep seeded need and that it was inevitable as I sat in curled in the corner day after day,silent,reading about Elvis,shaman ,wet tee shirt contests and soft-tail bikes.

That if he didn’t do it some one else would.

A slow day mixed with a moment of weakness…

An orange single blade disposable razor and green soap.That buzz,that hypnotic high whine.Alcohol on the air,on my lips.A Black Sabbath tape saturating the scene with sound.Smoking a cigarette and sweating bullets. The neon posted point of no return that I had been straining towards for fourteen and a half years.

I heard the starters pistol fire.

He turned my fine boned foot in his huge un-gloved hand beneath the smoke shot light. My picture drawn on the tender skin with blue biro. He ticked the sole and made me laugh causing my cigarette to leap from my lips and into my lap. I hastily retrieved it and tried to do the same with my meager cool.

“You get smart and tell anyone about this and your not welcome here no more” he growled and I nodded my head.

You stupid fucking kid” he muttered,a ghost of a smile loitering beneath his moustache  and got to work….

He slapped it when he was done and laughed. I winced and laughed too ,half -lit on the adrenalin of what I had done and warm Jack Daniels and flat coke I had been steadily sipping. He drove me way across town with my shoe off on the back of his bike,my head spinning,holding on tight as the tires chewed up the road like licorice and dropped me at the bottom of my street. As I handed him back my helmet he pulled me in for a rough hug.

“Idiot” he said and I laughed.

I stood there grinning like a tool till the taillights faded and the fat throb of the engine followed suite.

I kept it hidden. Me ,the heathen. My mother, the Spanish inquisition.

I loved it . I love it still.I looked at in and touched it reverently every chance I got.I loved that I had ruined myself for a world that had never wanted me in the first place.That I was finally free.

That I was home.

Later came the forearms.They were the real job stoppers. They were the jaw droppers. The ink has wound around me like ivy.It has taken me almost a life time to have what I have now. In the age of the GPS no one really takes time to think and ponder upon the majesty of maps anymore. This saddens me greatly At the turn of the century,the last one,high quality globes were at times made of tenderly cured hides. What are we but not so much of the same? I can trace every heartbreak and heart shattering loss via the cartography of my own dermis. Nothing covered and nothing removed. Every drop of ink a city,a night,a kiss,a shovel of dirt into an open gave,a eulogy,a forever truncated,a celebration.

And its all mine.

It cannot be stolen or repossessed. Every minute under every needle belongs to me alone.

And in the end we are all that we have.

Can I tell you with every tattoo I felt more like me? That being adopted and hence free of the shackles of heredity and all the expectation it inadvertently contained enabled me to construct myself to the utmost? I became my own red light fueled Sistine Chapel?  Before it became so popular and people started asking me what they meant because reality television had given them,they thought,  some kind of right,they would avoid me,shuffle their children away from me. Avert their eyes.

Exactly what I wanted. Mission accomplished.

Its harder now. When I was a kid if I saw another lank haired loser in a faded well loved Slayer tee-shirt there was a pretty red hot chance that I would not only be in a band with them by the end of the week but sleeping on their floor and smoking all their weed . Now I see kids in band tee shirts when I work my door and quiz them about the bands that they sport only to be met with blank stares (“Ok homeschool,name one song by Zepplin then….and NOT Stairway to heaven!”) Sue me. I still live and die by this shit.

Well ,way back when,tattoos used to be the same.

Times long gone.

On a bad day when halfwits yell out of their car windows while I wait for the lights to change (“Hey Kat von D!!!!”)  I think that if I had of known what it was going to become that I would have stayed a clear skin but I know deep down that that is a lie. Even now the slinky symmetry of my epic grey and black sleeves wrapped around one of my innumerable white damask pillows when I wake up makes a sly grin settle on my fat lips.

No one told me what to be. No one even knew due to my secrecy shrouded birth who I was or where I came from. I did this. I gave myself to myself. When I had no faith I put myself under the needle again and again till I got right,The Stooges screaming through my brain,every pore and fucked up follicle of my being.I pulled myself back form the brink over and over again.

I am mine.

People and possessions will come and go,that is a given. I am an ornery ol’ thing so more likely than not love shall continue to pass me by.The world is lead online and people still  continue to suck. But every once in a while on a train or stuck on a stop over in some godforsaken airport I will look up from the page that more often than not holds my attention and I will see some girl child devouring me with her eyes.

The tee shirt hanging threadbare from my lean frame most likely older than she is,the weathered silver on my long fingers,the belt buckle the size of a dinner plate, hair dark and wild falling to the waistband of skintight jeans. Boot clad with  a hatbox by my side that a hooker named Crazy Charlie gave me when I first moved out of home that has circumnavigated  the world several times over and is now held together with nothing but prayers,a thousand band stickers,backstage passes and duct taped dreams.

She eats the whole table that I am bare with her pre-teen eyes and I make no sudden moves. I am languid.I am a feast and she had no idea she was starving till she saw me. I let her gorge herself until her sense of possibility becomes distended and sleepily sated.

For now.

Her parents occupied with a snot nosed sibling and ticketing concerns the world henceforth consists of the two of us alone. I casually put down my pen and she freezes. So slowly I look up,I raise my eyes to her and I smile. She shyly sends it back to me gift wrapped in cherry chap-stick and the bloom of youth. She laughs as I pretend to catch it and stick it in my pocket.

Her gate arks up with light and commences boarding and she looks panicked. “Its cool” I mouth and salute her. She laughs and it hurts way down where I thought the light could no longer reach,where the bodies are buried. She is marked. Just like I was when the punks winked at me in the city while my mother looked away and I stared slack jawed at their perfect Mohawks.I won’t tell her how hard it will get just like no one told me. It is the lot of our kind.You have to have it hard. Hard is the black velvet under the diamond of the amazing highs that come with being to thine own self true.

I decide to give her the whole package before she leaves. I uncurl myself to my full formidable six foot seven in  heels and wave goodbye to her. She walks backwards slack jawed,her parents ignoring her.

At the gate she blows me a kiss and keeps waving till the doors swallow her from my sight. She takes a piece of my coal black heart with her.

I sigh and scoop all my crap into my hatbox.The tannoy crackles and announces the first boarding call for Los Angeles International.

I know that all is as it should be.That there will always be another gypsy child to take my place.She gives me faith that the line of women with un-tameable blood tempered with a heavy dose of equal parts Iggy Pop and Fleetwood mac will never be broken.

That in her, Lee,the Punks,the Slayer lank haired losers and me….that we will never die.We will all live forever.

I lock my hatbox and fish my boarding pass and passport from my black tasseled handbag. Ice blue eyes hidden behind my silver aviators,I square my shoulders and let a Mona Lisa smile settle on my mouth.

“Where eagles dare” blasts out of my i-pod and I saunter,hips swinging down the concourse  followed by a million eyes and whispers.

I turn it up.

I grin like the wolf that I am.

I make my way to the gate and the world.