When Lolo was 8 years old he told the Jefita that he was going to go downtown and get a tattoo of dragons and dinosaurs to his arms and his back–maybe centipedes and millipedes and creeping crawling monsters to his back and legs. Perhaps bats and scorpions wrapping around the arm and his unusually small neck. He saw a man at the State Fair working the rides with similar patterns and he immediately wanted the coverings and envisioned immense inked skulls and fire demons to his neck and shoulders. In his coloring books he chose the colors and he chose the body parts drawing and coloring in biceps and torsos with immense patterns of gore and depth. His mind swimmed in those colors.
The Jefita gasped and told her youngest son that if he wanted to break his mother’s heart then to go right ahead–but he would have to wait until far after her death. And his father’s death–and possibly the death of all his Tias and most of the comadres from around Spruce Street.
She held him in her wide arms as he struggled to get away–he reminded her that the Jefe had tattoos. Marine tattoos on his both of his forearms. The Jefe never held Lolo the way his mother did but Lolo studied those tattoos and used them in arguments with the Jefita on a daily basis. The eagle and the Marine Corpse insignia to each arm that danced as he flexed his arms were the only evidence to the boy that his father had left the old neighborhood before he was conceived and killed men as in the movies or on the television. The ink was faded and contained no creatures but Lolo wanted them just the same–to the young Lolo that was the mark of a man. That was what men did and what they wore. To Lolo and the other round faced brown skinned boys–around Baystate and Box Elder streets–the unpaved streets down by the highway where the boys rode their bikes and wrestled and played massive tournaments of marbles and wrestling–tattoos were what made you hard and what showed you were a man. That and finding scorpions and spiders and even snakes. These were the things–tattoos and scorpions–little 8 year old Lolo associated with being a man.