These shitty tattoos were pushed into my skin with safety pins and india ink. I didn’t care about “art” at the time, believing I would be dead before I turned 21. What was the point? The cops were on our asses for existing, the newspapers condemned us, the schools didn’t care, and there was no shelter from the storm to be found.
Nowadays, tattoos are everywhere, but back then if you had them you were either military, a criminal, or an outsider. I understood that I was permanently marking myself as something other, and being homeless, money for good ink wasn’t on the table.
Each one of these tats tell a story, or contain a memory that is my story.
The first one I ever did was the anarchy symbol. I was sixteen, wired on six caffeine pills, my stomach tight from living off of peanut butter sandwiches, sitting at the end of a table at my friend Julie’s house.
Julie was 13 at the time and her parents were never home, so she would let the neighborhood kids crash at her place, where we would indulge in Robitussin, acid, or just hang out for days.
I sat there, humming from the caffeine, sticking my skin over and over for several hours, wiping the blood away when necessary. Conversation was going on around me but I was in my own world.
Anarchy. Do what you wanna do. A tool to disrupt the system. A youthful wet dream built on a utopian vision that could never exist positively on a mass scale. “Chaos and disorder! It’s too late to repent! It’s too late to repent!” sang the Meatmen.
I couldn’t repent anyway, not for defending myself, not for standing up against the Bullshit Society that hated my being.
My half brother once asked me if an “A” in a circle meant asshole.
I had to laugh.
I was an asshole. A hopped up, naturally hyper-active kid with a rodent’s metabolism. The only thing I had going for me was a will to keep going. My head and heart kept getting me in trouble, and I was a good enough shit talker to keep anyone who ran their mouth at me pissed off and defensive. I had a BA in Rebellion at Fuck U and found the only job I was qualified for- fucking shit up, including my own life.
Was I honest? Too honest, unless you were the system, then you didn’t deserve to know me, so I’d lie when I had to, in order to stay out of jail for stealing food or whatever crazy scheme I was in the middle of when confronted. I could look a cop in the face and explain shit so realistically that he would drop all of his natural instincts and let me walk. I knew when to push, insult, or be contrite and polite. “I use the enemy, I use anarchy,” sang Johnny Rotten.
The thing about anarchy is it attracts people who don’t want to/can not think. All fringe movements do at first. You end up with short-lived groups whose members eventually turn on each other. There is always a personality that becomes the sun surrounded by planets, most of which do not support life. Anarchy tries to do away with the natural hierarchies of nature for an egalitarian worldview, which basically means lowering the standard, but I didn’t see that when I was young. I was a true believer, ready to die for the cause.
When I wiped the ink away, the tattoo looked black. It would take a month for the color to fade to green after the scabs had fallen away. I would stare at it, wondering when I would meet my end.
© by Jason G. Thompson