I’m not even sure how to explain to myself how I ended up in a smoke-filled filthy tattoo parlor in Bangkok at eight in the morning. If I wanted to blame someone, I’d finger my nosy neighbor who’s probably calling yet another talk radio show back home in Ashwabenon, Wisconsin.
She’s a kind enough person, really. Just nosy. Like when my sister came to visit for a few weeks. She kept nosing around, trying to find out if I had taken in a roommate, or a girlfriend. Or got married secretly. It would have been too easy if she had just asked, or introduced herself any time when Deb was working in my yard. But that way she’d have nothing to gossip about with the other idlers.
Who would have guessed that she’d be the source of all my woes? Well, I can’t really blame her entirely. She’s not the one who got drunk one night and had the name of an Egyptian goddess tattooed on his forearm.
And by the way, I don’t think I would have gone through with it had I not been so drunk. Four pilots in Hong Kong, living it up. No matter what anyone says, tattoos hurt. That first stab of the needle in my arm was like a hot pricking that burned. I held on to the thought that my tattoo was only four letters long. My buddies kept the whiskey coming, and we all ended up with body art that night.
We vowed we’d keep them forever, as if there was much we could do about them. I certainly wasn’t about to go back for it to be removed.
Then my neighbor started poking around, yakking. She told anyone who would listen that I didn’t seem to have a regular job, seemed to come and go a lot, but always had lots of money. Why no one thought to tell her I’m a pilot, I don’t know. Maybe they thought it was funny to keep her guessing.
Which brings me up to yesterday. I get off the plane in Bangkok, and see five or six texts from Deb, each more frantic than the last.
I called right away. “What’s up?”
“You’ve got to get rid of your tattoo. Today.”
“What? I know you don’t like it, but—“
“No buts. Just do it.”
“No. It was painful enough getting it.”
“Do you want to be arrested for terrorism?”
Good thing I didn’t have my phone on speaker. That’s not a word you want to throw around in an airport.
“Look, Delores is at it again. She’s called the Tommy Smart Show and told them her neighbor’s a terrorist. She means you.”
“Not everyone thinks so. Reporters have been here. I’m surprised Delta hasn’t called you.”
I frowned. I did have a message to call the supervisor. And the pilot’s union.
“But what’s her evidence?”
“Who cares about an Egyptian…”
Then I got it. “I’ll do it, not matter what.”
So what if I’d been up pretty much the last thirty hours? And what’s a little pain? Better than losing my job for some misunderstanding, or being grilled as a suspected terrorist.
So here I sit, praying I don’t get some nasty disease from this place. One moment of folIy might stick with me for a long time.
I must be the only person stupid enough to get a tattoo spelled i-s-i-s.