Tattoos are so prevalent today, that most people don’t recall the times when they were reserved for bikers and longshoremen. But I can remember wanting one for a long time before I got my first. Once I joined the Marines, it almost seemed a requirement, as there was nothing that said “bad ass” like some ink.

But having spoken to the old salts who had their ink, as much as I wanted one, I wanted it to be special. I purposely chose to wait until I had arrived in Marseille, France, where the artists are renowned for their single-needle work and the amazing art it rendered. Their work, although limited in the boldness of color, made up for it in exquisite detail.

When we got shore call late one afternoon, I headed directly to “Allan’s Tatouage”. This was frowned on in the military, and especially in Special Forces which preferred to keep their soldiers from being easily identifiable. We often wore uniforms and used equipment without US markings. But this was a laughably unenforceable policy and in all my years and all the tattoos gotten by my fellow Marines, I had never heard of someone facing Office Hours (non-judicial discipline referred to as Article 15 in the Army and Air Force) for getting one.

So, money in hand, I set off to fulfill my long-held dream. When I arrived with some friends in tow, there was another person getting a tattoo finished. Alan explained it would be about 45 minutes if I wanted to wait, and I eagerly did want to. I sent a Lance Corporal, whose name I have since forgotten, down to the local store to buy and return with a good bottle of vodka. I had plans on taking the edge off prior to getting in the chair. He happily accepted the money and headed off to the center of town.

As I perused some of the flash work adorning the walls, I had already decided that I did not want the same “Skull with a Snake”, “Dagger through a Heart”, or other macho crap most Marines went for. I wanted something a bit more artistic. There, among the sketches the artist had on his wall, was a singular feminine face in profile. Delicate features with long, dark hair. The detail was amazing, as if each individual hair had been drawn.

When my time came, still fully sober as Lance Corporal What’s His Name had not returned, I jumped in the chair and got that face on my left pectoral. An hour later, with much less pain than I was led to believe, I had my first tattoo. I was so proud that I left it uncovered and my shirt open as we walked our way back to the center of town, where as luck would have it, we came upon our missing man, completely hammered and lying next to a three-quarters empty vodka bottle in the town square. I was too happy to be upset at that moment, but I did reserve a few less than appealing chores for the culprit when we were back at sea.

Since that day, I have carried the face of a woman I do not know inked over my heart every day. People often presume it is someone from my life. An ex-lover, a mother, a daughter. Certainly not imagining it is just some random image given such a place of great importance and permanency. And I have used all of those stories and more in my pursuit of attractive women in my day. Fashioning imaginative stories to capture the hearts of beautiful ladies.

But, alas, my first tattoo was the equivalent of finding a frame you like at Walmart and keeping the picture it came with. As years have passed, she has become a representation of all the women who have touched my life, where the random cannot be avoided and the beauty lies within the details.


22 Responses to “Details”
  1. beth says:

    I love this story

  2. Odd that I don’t recall questioning “who” she is…

  3. mistermuse says:

    Even women are getting tattoos these days. Call me sexist, but I doubt I’d marry one (anyway, my wife wouldn’t let me).

  4. Jim Borden says:

    thanks for sharing that wonderful story, Brad.

    If someone were to ask me if I have a tattoo (which no one ever has, or ever will!), I’ve got my reply, thanks to comedian Sebstian Maniscalco:

    “you don’t put a bumper sticker on a Ferrari.” 🙂

  5. Although I do admire the art of some tattoos I’ve seen, I don’t like them on my skin, although in the Army I did get one. It’s a bear claw and the tattoo artist said I’d go back for the whole bear. I didn’t. I did enjoy your narrative though.

  6. petespringerauthor says:

    Cool story. I wish I could see it. My wife got a small tattoo decades ago before it became fashionable to do so. I’m still ink-free, and that ship may already have sailed.

  7. The only tattoos on me are skin surgery scars!

  8. jomz says:

    Amazing story!

    Also, how selfish of your Lance Corporal what’s his name to almost keep an entire bottle of vodka to himself…

  9. jonicaggiano says:

    What an interesting story Brad. I love the idea of doing something tender instead of something that screams I am a badass. Lovely written piece. Nice to know something a little personal about you too. Thanks for sharing. Big hugs and love ❤️ Jonikins

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