The Tattoo Artist, Friendship Soup and Conversation

vintage-tattoo-couple“Tattoos made my skin more ‘me.’ -Melissa Maxwell”

Larry Smith, It All Changed in an Instant: More Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous & Obscure

I spoke to him on Thursday night, after handing him a jar of handcrafted soup. The note attached articulated that I hoped it nourished he and his son’s bodies as well as their souls.

His eyes clouded with tears, and he began to speak to me. To catch me up on his life. The words came out in torrents. I just listened. It usually is so difficult for me to keep my mouth shut. I always want to inject words of advice into conversations with friends. To ease the pain in some way.

He told me of recent happenings. The sadness. The grief. The loss of a good friend to suicide. And coming to the realization that he was a good man. I kept listening. And smiling. I wanted to hold him close to me, but I didn’t think he’d welcome the contact.

For some reason, he went back to the beginning of his life and shared everything. This man that has pierced me with his needle made sure to  pierce my heart too.

We spoke of his art. The drawing, painting, and tattooing. We spoke of writing. He said I was good. I told him he was better. I announced that he was a reincarnation of Jack Kerouac. He chuckled and grinned like a little kid and announced that his grammar was awful. I assured him that a writer is only as good as their editor. He snickered again.

I inquired about Christmas Day. He told me he’d be spending it alone. The nurturer in me wanted to invite him to dinner on the 25th. Wouldn’t that be something, my friend, covered with tats, ears gauged, sitting at the dinner table with my family? But I didn’t ask. I should have.

Our words began to lessen and it was time for me to take my leave. He came around the counter and hugged me tightly to him. I took in his scent, divine and manly. I whispered in his ear, ‘Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.” He smiled boyishly and I departed from his shop.

His smile stayed on my mind while I drove to my little apartment, just 10 minutes away. The fact that he would be alone on Christmas Day did also. When I got home, I extended an invitation for Christmas dinner. His reply was noncommittal but thankful all the same.

He let me into his life on Thursday night, and I didn’t worry about what time it was. Or the other things I had to do, I just listened.

And I learned.

**Writer’s Note:**
This was the Facebook status that I was tagged in after we talked on Thursday evening. I guess my words stayed with the artist. It is quite an honor to be a part of his life. No matter how small that part may be.
I woke up as the sun was reddening; and that was the one distinct time in my life, the strangest moment of all, when I didn’t know who I was – I was far away from home, haunted and tired with travel, in a cheap hotel room I’d never seen, hearing the hiss of steam outside, and the creak of the old wood of the hotel, and footsteps upstairs, and all the sad sounds, and I looked at the cracked high ceiling and really didn’t know who I was for about fifteen strange seconds. I wasn’t scared; I was just somebody else, some stranger, and my whole life was a haunted life, the life of a ghost.-jack kerouac — with Renee Heath.
Advertisements

God Said Hahahahahahahahahahahaha!

moneypit

Ha!!! Hahahahahahaha!! Hah huh, ha huh, ha huh, ha huh! Huh, huh, huh, huh! Ha!!!!!!!!

On Monday morning I planned on writing a journal entry, after my work was finished of course. Hell, I planned to follow the format that I’ve been trying to follow for about three months. But something always seems to fuck it up.

Catching up on email at work on Monday morning, I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Cliche I know, but it’s how I felt. The sentence that squeezed my heart stated that two staff members would be directly affected by an Administrative Services Transition. I knew it was my job that would be eliminated. It was surreal to think after almost 25 years, my job might be gone. After speaking with a colleague I decided to talk to my director and tell her that I thought it was me that was going to get laid off. She confirmed my fears and waited for my response. We’ve worked together for 18 years, and she knows me. My initial reaction usually is to cry. This time, I didn’t. I sat in the blue canvas chair across from her, and felt strangely at peace.

I’m not sure if it’s the latest changes in my life. Alcoholic’s Anonymous and being sober for over four months. Being newly single. Or learning to let go and let God. But I was composed while I sat in my mentor’s office. Resigned to the fact that my job would be eliminated as of April 1, 2014. With the news came opportunity. A chance to interview for new leadership positions with Shared Services. To start a whole new career. It’s not something that a 45 year old, newly single and sober woman looks forward to. I’m kind of a weirdo though, so I say, bring it on.

At the end of our meeting, my director and cherished friend hugged me fiercely. I’m not sure how I’ll handle not seeing her smiling face every morning. When I leave, she’ll be the one that I miss the most. Her guidance over the years has made me a good employee. Her faith in me has been unwavering. For all the times that I’ve stumbled, she has picked me up and encouraged me to set my feet on the right path. I love her. Without her support and tough love, I don’t know where I’d be.

Now I’m updating my resume, creating a professional profile, writing a cover letter, perusing job postings and buying a new business suit. Fuck, I haven’t worn one of those things in years. I was hoping I’d never have to again. The one constant in my life is being ripped from me, and all I can think is, it could be worse.

Maybe next week I’ll get to follow my blog format. Maybe next week I’ll write every day. Maybe next week life won’t turn on a dime. Maybe, maybe, maybe. Maybe not.

Journal Entry Monday-Straddling the Horizon

copyright-Tracy Rhodes

Copyright-Tracy Rhodes Photography

When I drove in to work this morning, I felt like I was straddling the horizon. The sunrise to the East, and the moon to the West. Stars settled on my shoulder and whisked pixie dust through my hair. I knew I was being reborn.

The last 30 days have been quite remarkable. Where do I even begin? I guess, I’ll begin at the beginning….

On September 26, I drove a completely packed UHaul to my new apartment. After I signed the lease and got the keys, I started lugging boxes. My friends arrived a couple of hours later and helped me drag the furniture up one flight of stairs. J bitched about having to drag the sofa bed up a flight. But with the help of my BFF’s teenage son, they got it moved with nary a broken fingernail between them. As a thank you, I took my moving crew out to dinner at a local Coney Island. The food was cheap and good. Our conversation lively and full of laughter. After the plates were cleared and the bill settled, I hugged my friends and headed home, alone.

Alone, that was what I wanted to be. I smiled at the prospect of it. The sense of it too. I’d never been alone my entire adult life, but I was anxious to begin my journey. After I arrived back at my place, I slipped a DVD into the player (Pretty in Pink) and started to unpack my treasures. Working tirelessly till about 1 am, I finally collapsed on my sofa bed and slept the sleep of the dead.

The next morning, I dragged my sleepy ass off the couch and drove to my local AT & T store. Seems my smart phone took a shit in the middle of the night so I had to get it replaced. Nick, my sales rep noticed my anxiety about the replacement fee of 250.00. He graciously waived it, set me up and shoved me out the door before 10 am when the cable/internet installer was to arrive at my apartment. Wonder of wonders, the cable guy showed up on time and I had cable and internet before noon. Thank God, because there is no way in hell I could live without Facebook or Word Press for more than 24 hours!

I won’t bore you with more details of settling in. Suffice is to say that it was pretty uneventful. A few leaks in the bathroom needed to be tended to by maintenance. My kitty, Cinders came to live with me. She’s a happy camper and good company. I hear from my children and ex-husband on a regular basis, and we’re all adjusting to the new ‘normal’.

Friends have wanted to come visit. I’m okay with it, but I enjoy my solitude. The quiet is welcoming and I let it envelope me. I read, write, shop, sleep, and buy my own flowers. I relish the times away, and revel in the time spent with myself. I’ve gotten the hang of budgeting my time and money. When my children call on me, I drop everything and go to them. It’s easier now to be a good mother without the rain cloud of unhappiness that used to follow me everywhere.

Roger Darling and I will always have a connection. We will be a family because we are parents to the two most incredible human beings I’ve ever known. Our Adam Boy and Meggie need us to be on the same team, even if we don’t live under the same roof. Our grown children may have suffered a setback or two with the newness of this life. But I think they’re getting the hang of it.

I’ll continue to broaden and straddle that new horizon, every damn day that I have the good fortune to wake up. To make heart connections, and make new friends. Who knows, maybe someday with God’s good grace a new man will enter my life. One that will love me with all my brokenness. He’ll place his hand on the shattered pieces, making me stronger than I’ve ever been. I’ll hold his hand, and we’ll walk that horizon together.

Until then, I’ll enjoy the solitariness. And live. Maybe I’ll even go to London. In the springtime. I bet it’s lovely that time of year. I have to research a book. A tragic romance. About a young writer that falls for a drug addicted poet…….

Not All Who Wander Are Lost

Woman in WoodsNot all who wander are lost….-J. R. R. Tolkien

I awoke at nine last Sunday morning intent on spending at least an hour in bed reading a book that Harry recently gave me titled, Telling True Stories. Seems he’d found it in the bargain bin at a bookstore (Harry is a very, shall we say, thrifty man.) and knew that I would adore reading it.

As I snatched the book from the nightstand, my text alert chimed. Seems my young friend Cami needed me to check in on the animals where she was house sitting.   After my positive reply, I put the book back with plans to read a chapter or two before bed that night.

Once showered and dressed, I set out on my adventure. Travel to Plymouth, a little town east of Ann Arbor, Michigan. The fall day was flawless and the sun shimmered with an unusual brightness for this time of year. My left hand lightly gripped the steering wheel. The diamonds in my thumb ring,  displayed tiny prisms that danced around and dazzled my eyes. I chose not to wear my sunglasses. I wanted to delight in the radiance of the day.

Acoustic Brunch on 107.1 was tuned in on my car stereo, and Serena Ryder sang about a Brand New Love. I depressed the automatic window button and let the wind rush through my freshly washed hair. I cared not that it was in disarray. Humming along with Serena, I felt such stillness in my heart. Contentment too, and dare I say, happiness.

I zoomed past trees full of vibrant color. Blazing crimson, and dazzling lemon and gold. Various colors of orange, like apricot and titian. The life of some of the leaves had expired and were the color of dust. Had I stopped and run my fingers through the branches, the leaves would have crumbled at my touch. My sky-blue eyes devoured every sight, and my ears received every song as if it were communion. I felt as if the gate to my life was finally open.

I displayed no symptoms of anxiety and panic disorder. There was nothing to stop me from arriving at my destination. I’d never been there before, but didn’t care. The quote, ‘not all who wander are lost’ came to mind and I began to beam, like the reflected light emanating from my thumb ring.

I exited M-14 and traveled from Ford Road to my destination. Of course, I got lost. Twice! Yet there was no fear to prickle the hairs on the back of my neck. I just went with it, and continued to smile and sing.

When I arrived at my destination, I was wildly greeted by two of the cutest dogs I had ever seen.  My spirits soared as they frolicked around my feet. They wanted nothing more than to be loved on, fed and walked. I did all of those things for them. In return, they gave me a reason to view the fall colors liked I’d never seen them before. With freedom. Without fear. With wild abandon.

Quoteful Thursday-Boris Pasternak

tumblr_mha5azU5PM1rnvzfwo1_500

I don’t like people who have never fallen or stumbled.

Their virtue is lifeless and it isn’t of much value.

Life hasn’t revealed its beauty to them.

Boris Pasternak

I know I haven’t written anything lately. I haven’t stuck to my format either. Life is crazy, crazy, crazy. So here’s a quote for Thursday. I promise that I’m writing a story for Friday Fictioneers. It’s a sad one, because that’s what I write best.

Sometimes words dry up, or I stop giving a shit. Or the family I’ve been trying to keep together for 24 years finally falls apart because of me. I would rather beg for forgiveness of my children than write a journal entry or post a Tunesday entry.

Maybe I’m trying to stay sober and need to write out my fourth step. That’s more important than writing about romance. I love the written word, but ‘writer’ is only one of the many names I bear. Today I’d rather be a mother, daughter, friend, employee, etc.

I’d like to hide, but I won’t. I’d like to go running, but I’m out of shape.

I’m not asking for pats on the back or kind words. I don’t want to be told it will be all right, because it won’t.

Tonight, I’ll drive home while music blares on the radio. I’ll be chair dancing and singing along. When I arrive, there will be dogs barking and warm kisses from Wonder Schnauzers and Baxter my grand dog. Roger Darling will be there with a cup of coffee and conversation. Dinner will commence and dishes will be done. I might pack a few of my things up before I head to bed.

During the night after I head to the bathroom for the third time, I’ll snuggle back down in bed and listen to the silence.  I’ll pray that the next time I fall, I don’t take my whole family down with me.

Amen.

I Don’t Get Along With Women Typically

945791_158767074312547_1345659148_n

“I don’t get along with women typically.” -Duchess Bella Lynn De’Lioncourt
Baroness Jade Mira
House of Vega

Last Monday night I sat at a table at Dan’s Tavern with my BFF of 30 years. There were three other women sitting with us. The one seated to my right and I were jabbering away and having a great time. We laughed a lot even though we weren’t particularly close in high school. My BFF was seated to my left. She shook her head at me from time to time while listening in on the conversation that I was having with my new but old friend to my right.

I looked at my BFF of 30 years and stated, ‘I’m a lot like you ya know. Quiet, reserved. A wallflower.’

Her reply, ‘Renee, you’re about as much of a wallflower as an earthquake.’

My BFF of 30 years, new but old friend, the two other women at the table and I laughed until we were nearly in hysterics. BFF was right, I am about as subtle as an earthquake. When I’m in my element. On Monday night, I was not. I still harbor resentment for my hometown and the people I went to high school with. I didn’t fit in then. Don’t now, but that’s okay. It was fun to sit and chat anyway. To get to know someone that I kind of knew. To have them get to know me.

As we were talking I shared a story about an old boyfriend of mine named Brian H. He was the only ‘jock’ I ever went out with in high school. I was a ‘stoner’, ‘drama’, ‘singer’, ‘actor’ girl. The girl who sang in choir, talked too loud, and read books. I didn’t go out with jocks. But Brian, he was nice. And he liked me. He asked me out and I said yes. We dated off and on. Eventually we started ‘going together’. He gave me his baseball shirt to wear. I was a curvy girl, but he was a big guy, so I kinda swam in it. It was the 80’s, I put a belt around my waist and cinched that sucker as tight as I could. I was so proud to be his girl.

One night he took me to a party to meet his friends. I was scared to death. Me, the force of nature that fears nothing was afraid! I was out of my element and I didn’t have my BFF with me. The only girl I’ve ever trusted with my life. I had Brian though, so I hoped I’d be okay. It was so long ago, I don’t even remember where the party was. As we walked to the front door, the hairs prickled on my neck. Brian slipped his hand into mine and gripped it firmly. When we walked in, I smiled at the girls as they looked at me with disdain. We said our hellos and walked to the part of the house where Brian’s friends were. With the boys I felt at ease. Not because of my boobs, ass or what I had between my legs. But because I could drink, cuss, and shoot the shit with them. It was Brian’s turn to be proud of me. He loved the fact that I was not a girly girl.

New but old friend said, ‘you were the fun girl that’s why Brian loved you, and that’s why the guys got along with you.

Yes, but I’ve always gotten along better with men than I have women’, I replied. ‘I could also drink them under the table too.’

BFF and new but old friend laughed. I teared up a little and began to speak as I pointed to my left, ‘My closest friends have always been men, but that woman right there has been my best friend for 30 years. I would trust her with my life and with every secret that I have to tell. She has never judged me and I’ve never judged her. When life falls apart and turns to shit for either one of us, we turn to each other. I love her beyond measure.’

BFF’s eyes misted over and the rest of us at the table were silent.

‘Now it’s time to let all that old stuff go’, my BFF said.

The unshed tears in my eyes dried and I gave a radiant smile. I realized that she was right, it was time to let it go.

BFF and I know we’ll love each other till we’re dead. Seeing as we both believe in the hereafter, we’ll love each other there too. I don’t know if I’m good enough to get into Heaven, but she is. The woman should be sainted.

As for Brian and me, we broke up. I was the one that broke his heart. I don’t even know where he is.

Even at the age of 45, I find that most of my friends are men. There’s Roger Darling, Harry, Rory, Biker Dude, My Little Work Brothers, my nephews, and even a few from Across The Pond.

Laura calls me an earthquake but she is a volcano. And when the two of us combine, we are a force to be reckoned with.

Sometimes God Sits on a Stoop

Homeless-Veteran-Sign1Wounded Warrior Project

Please click the link above and give what you can. PLEASE!

I saw the face of God in a young homeless man in Detroit City last Saturday afternoon. He was sitting in the doorway of an abandoned building. The concrete was blazing hot, even in the shade. I couldn’t imagine the discomfort he felt while dressed in fatigue pants and a white cotton shirt.

We made eye contact and said hello to one another. With a smile shared, I knew he was a good man.  I was entranced by his features almost immediately. His face was young but hardened by life. His eyes were exquisite in their beauty. Arms, sinewy and covered with tats. Hands with long fingers should have been trained to tickle the ivories in a jazz joint.

I turned my face to the right and looked at the remnants of an abandoned building.

“They really should tear that down,” he said.

“Why hon? It’s a part of history, just like all of the surrounding buildings are,”  I said.

“I guess you’re right.”

“Nah-”

My reply was cut short by a mouthy and street smart, yet delicate woman that spoke rudely to the young vet.

“Get a job you fucking faggot,” she yelled at the homeless man.

“Hey Gwen,” he said back to her.

We laughed, even though I cringed when Gwen called the vet that word, faggot. That’s one I will never, ever say out loud.

Roger and I continued to enjoy the festivities before the Jimmy Buffett concert at Comerica Park. We laughed at all the drunk people, and how folks were dressed. So many men wore grass skirts and coconut bras. As for some of the women, I wondered if they’d checked a mirror before they left the house. I felt bad for them, really I did.

We sat in our seats as the sun slipped behind the metal girders at the highest point of the stadium. The breeze began to dry my clammy skin. Jimmy began to sing about Caribbean Islands, but my mind went back to the young man sitting in the doorway of an abandoned building.

We left the concert early. Can you believe it? We paid over $100.00 for each ticket, but we left early!

“Do you want to go home?”, Rog inquired.

“No, I’d rather sit at the bar at Cheli’s and listen to the music,” I retorted.

What I really wanted to do was go back and find the man that I had talked to earlier in the day. I wanted to know his story. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t brought a pen or paper with me.

“Can we go look for that guy?”, I asked as we walked back to the car.

“Really Renee?”, Rog sighed.

“Yup.”

“He won’t be there.”

“Yeah, he will.”

In my heart, I believed he would be. See, he was my glimpse of God for that day. I knew he’d be there. We drove past the doorway and there he sat. I pulled my unopened water bottle from the car cup holder. Unfortunately, it was all I had to offer him. Roger barely had the car in park, before I dashed out of the car.

I walked up to the young man and he eyed me cautiously. Without hesitation I sat down next to him and handed him the water bottle.

“Hi, I saw you earlier today.” I smiled as I spoke to him, “We discussed the building that should be demolished.”

“Oh yeah.” He shook my hand. “Hi, again.”

“I brought you a water. Unfortunately, it’s all of I’ve got to give you today.”

“Thank you. I’m parched.”

He flicked his cigarette out and grabbed the water. I swear he drank it in one gulp. I briefly told him my story, that I wanted to tell his. Of course, I was traveling light that day. I had no paper or pen. There we sat, me in a dress and *Curt in fatigues on dirty concrete. He let his words flow and I slowed my ADHD brain down so I could retain every word he said.

Originally from Michigan, he shuffled back and forth from the Mitten to Tennessee when he was a kid. At the tender age of 18, he signed up for the Army. The young man served in Fallujah in ’05 and ’09 and came home with nothing. Once discharged from the service, he went to live with his dad.

Curt’s father died last August. The cause of death left a mystery to me. He left that home and with his meager savings bought himself a house in the D.  It burned down, taking all of his possessions with it. With no homeowner’s insurance he was fucked. Curt took what he had left and lived out of a duffel bag.

The embarrassment of his living situation, deters him from telling his grandparents. Curt’s eyes showed sorrow as he spoke sweetly of them. I asked if he wanted me to call and tell them. He shook his head no, despondently.  I turned my face from his so he wouldn’t see me cry.

We talked more about VA Hospitals and how he had been stabbed at the one in Detroit. My heart lurched when he showed me the scars. I told him to get to the one in Ann Arbor. He assured me that he had an appointment next week that he wasn’t about to miss.

I wanted to sit there all night and talk to him. I wanted to give him more than a bottle of water. I wanted to pray with him. I wanted to give him the price of my concert ticket. I wanted to give him back his youth. I wanted to drive him to a homeless shelter. I wanted to give him some kind of fucking relief.

“Curt I have to go, but I’ll come back.” I told him. “Are you usually sitting on this stoop?”

“It’s okay Renee,” he replied. “I’m only here during big events. I’m usually outside the MGM Grand Casino.”

“Do you have a phone? Can I call you?”

“Yes I do, but I ran out of minutes. Try me in a couple of days though.”

I saved his number in my phone.

Gripping Curt’s shoulder I said, “Thank you so much for your service, you gave us everything including your youth.”

His eyes misted over, and he whispered, “you’re welcome. See you soon Renee. Thanks for your time and the water.”

As I stepped away from my new friend, I wondered where the hell Roger was. I exited the car so quickly he hadn’t even found a place to park. I looked to my left and saw him wave. I walked the few feet to the car and as I opened the door, welcomed the coolness of the air conditioned interior. I thanked Rog for driving me over to meet the young man I had talked to earlier in the day.

The ride home was quiet. I thought hard on my conversation with Curt. I was so glad I went back to talk to him. I’ll try to call him in a couple of days. I’ll be very sure to go see him in a couple of weeks. I promised him I would. He was my glimpse at God that day. I’m sure he will be again.

*’Curt’ asked me not to use his real name, but I’m not above telling you where he frequently panhandles. If you see him, give him a little something. 

Tuesday’s Forecast Calls for Rebirth

robins

“Some birds are not meant to be caged, that’s all. Their feathers are too bright, their songs too sweet and wild. So you let them go, or when you open the cage to feed them they somehow fly out past you. And the part of you that knows it was wrong to imprison them in the first place rejoices, but still, the place where you live is that much more drab and empty for their departure.”

 Stephen KingRita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption: A Story from Different Seasons

When I woke this morning it was full dark. I showered, did my hair and packed a lunch. In the midst of my running around, daylight came. I stepped outside to start my car. Though the morning was cold, I could feel a shift in season. It seemed as though the change came over night. I could smell newness in the air. Even with frost on the windshield and snow on the ground, I knew Spring was right around the corner. Could almost taste it. I wished for lilacs and the scent of freshly mowed grass. I knew those two wishes wouldn’t come true for awhile.

I sat in the driver’s seat and started my car. Jacked up the front and rear defrosters. As I headed back to the house I saw them, two Red-Breasted Robins. Their feathers appeared brighter in contrast to the stark white snow. I rejoiced in the confirmation that yes, change was coming soon. The snow would melt. The ground would thaw. With that, would come the faint scent of mud and fresh earth in the air. My soul would set fire, knowing that my favorite season was upon us yet again.

And I, along with nature would be reborn.

My Brother Rory

I sought my soul, but my soul I could not see. I sought my God, but my God eluded me. I sought my brother and I found all three.-author unknown

I ended my night by corresponding with my soul brother, Rory. I love that man more than words can convey. When I started writing just over a year ago, this wonderful writer started following me. Why he’s not published is beyond me.

I don’t have too much more to say about him, except that I’m happy he’s in my life. He doesn’t judge me. I don’t judge him. He’s the best brother a silly woman like me can have. Wish I could tell you all who he is. I promised I’d protect his identity.

I love you my dear, sweet brother. I breathe easier knowing that you’re out there rooting for me. And loving me.

Love, Nee

Thursday Quote-Dylan Thomas

Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Dylan Thomas

I know the quote is about death. Every day we wake up alive, it brings us closer to our demise. I plan to fight it every step of the way. Even when my light goes out, I’ll keep shining on.

I’ll be in the stars.

The fireflies that illuminate the fields on hot summer nights.

The chaos and beauty of a spring thunderstorm.

I will still be there. Living on another vibration, but there all the same.