Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, Northern Ireland
A book I'm working on is set in this town.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Oddities abound

The dreamy-ness of the current bit of POS continues with a curious shift in direction and tone, but still leading to my original ending. I think. I'll not know till I'm there.

Can't really think of anything to say so I'm going to be lazy and do this, instead --

Brendan and Joanna are in Dublin in early 1972.
We stopped in some shops and found they had much finer things available than in Derry. She was looking for earrings to convince herself she should pierce her ears, but seemed unable to find anything to her liking. Then we found a shop that offered not only the earrings but piercing of the ears, as well. She was still undecided but then I noticed in the back they offered tattoos. And I idly looked through the book of them, wondering at some of the designs of anchors and dates and animals and the like -- until I came to a section of lettering. In it was a lovely flowing script, like handwriting would be if made perfect, and I got an idea.

“Joanna, what would you think of me with a tattoo?”

“My father has one from his time in the Navy,” was her absent reply. “Got it in Hong Kong, of a half-naked lady. It’s begun to fade.”

“Does he have any names on him?”

“No. Why?”

I turned to the girl at the counter and asked, “How much is one?”

“Depends on what you get,” she said.

“A name. Six letters here.” I motioned across my upper arm.

“Which lettering?” she asked as she came over.

“Brendan, what’re you doing?” Joanna asked, coming close to me.

“Dunno yet,” I said, then I pointed to the script.

She eyed my upper arm and said, “Three punt.”

“How long would it take?” I asked.

“Just over an hour.”

I had five punt on me and twelve British pounds, which I’ve found they take anywhere in the city, so I said, “Do it.”

Joanna’s mouth dropped open. “Brendan...”

“What age are you?” the girl asked.

“Seventeen,” I said, without hesitation.

She eyed me, unsure. “You look younger.”

I took my coolest pose and shot back at her, “We’re down from Derry looking at Trinity College. We’re applying to attend, next year, and wanted to see more about it. Isn’t that so, Joanna?”

She looked at me, wary, then nodded. “Though I’m not decided. I’m also considering St. Andrew’s.”

The girl shrugged, called into the back and a man the size of Mam’s house come out. I actually swallowed in nervousness at seeing him. “He wants a tatt -- right here.” She patted her left upper arm. “In lettering E-6.”

“Spell it out,” he said, shoving a slip of paper at me.

I did so.

Joanna was speechless for the first few minutes, then as I was handing over the money she turned me to her and said, “Are you daft? You can’t take these things off.”

“I’ll never want it off,” I replied.

“Brendan, this is foolish. How’ll you explain this to your mother? To anyone -- ?”

“There‘s nothing to explain. Nothing. I love you, Joanna. I will till the day I die. Nothing else matters.”

She shook her head, still wary, but smiled.

The man and the girl smirked at each other and I knew why, but I also knew how deep my feelings for Joanna were and no one could have swayed me from this course.

“Off wit’ ye shirt,” growled the man.

I removed it and sat beside him. “Does it hurt much?”

He smiled and said, “Put ye arm here, hold this grip an’ do NOT move.” I did and he started the needle up and dug in and I near screamed at the sudden pain of it. “Do not MOVE!”

I didn’t. I sat there and locked my eyes on Joanna’s and crushed that grip and she held my other hand and my focus stayed on keeping from crushing hers.

“Brendan, you’re mad,” she whispered to me, smiling in admiration. “Wickedly mad.”

“Have been since the first day I saw you.”

“When was that?”

And I told her of seeing her in that shop and seeing what album she bought and how I’d bought the same and the phonograph I’d fixed so’s I could listen to it and how I’d seared the words and music into my heart and sung it when I wanted to see her, and this was a year before the Liberation Fleadh. And I told of seeing her, again, that day we saw Eamonn off. And she just sat there, listening to me, looking at me, seeing me and seeming fascinated by my sordid little tales. Of course, I said nothing about the nights where I’d conjured her up. And her eyes never wavered from my face. And the pain seemed to lessen to the point I could hardly feel it, at all. And the girl behind the counter said nothing. And the burly man working my newest disfigurement seemed to grow more gentle. All as I recounted how I felt around her. How my heart leapt from joy at seeing her every time we met. How I hated parting from her. On and on I babbled, as if the needle carried a drug in it instead of ink, and by the time he was done digging and swiping and outlining and filling in, I was hoarse from talking so much.

The girl behind the counter brought us cups of tea and never had anything felt so good on my throat or tasted so fine on my tongue. And I could speak no more, but it was all right, for the burly man did one last wipe of his work and leaned back to smile and said, “Well done, lad. Would you care to look at it before I cover it? Last chance for maybe ten days.”

“Why?” I asked.

“It’ll become a scab as it heals, then it’ll peel away and what you’ll have will be as lovely as what you see now.”

I nodded and he put up a mirror, and I laughed. “It’s backwards.”

He chuckled and angled the mirror then put up another to catch the first one’s reflection. And oh St. Brigit, how lovely it was. Script flowing together in tender darkness, the hint of an outline in red along the top. Dots of blood that he quickly wiped away. I drew in so deep a breath of pride, I could easily have burst, and I turned to show Joanna her new place in my soul.

She touched it, tenderly. “Does it hurt?”

Yes. “Never. I’m yours now, no matter what. You’ve branded me.”

She looked at me with eyes so filled with confusion and wariness, I grew afraid. Thought for an instant I’d made a fool of myself. Gone that one step too far for her, or done it too soon or too suddenly. Now she’d back away from me for being too much a child in matters of the heart, still. Dear God, I think I’d die if that happened.

But then she leaned in and kissed it. Barely brushed her lips over the raw etching, and relief overwhelmed me. I lay my head in the crook of her neck and let out my breath, finally knowing all would be well. She put her hand to my cheek and whispered, “It’s near six. We’ll be late for our ride.”


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