When I write, it starts with the characters. Some writers are inspired by places, or objects, or scenes. I need the characters first. I have to know them, all their wonderful qualities, what makes them tick, how they’re damaged, and their quirks. Quirks are my favorite, I actually collect them. They make a character so much more. Quirks bring the whole package together and make a character into a real person. They are usually unexpected things that humanize and make him or her relatable to the reader.
When I was 19, I got a tattoo. Left shoulder blade, Japanese letter (super original) that means “female strength” (shut up, I was 19).
The tattoo parlor was a little shack and the coolest people watching place I think I had ever been in my 19 years. To set the scene, let’s just say I’m not exactly a stereotypical tattoo parlor girl and I did not fit in. I spoke with the woman who was inking some mountain scene on a man’s back when I politely told her that I’d like # 63. She gave me that “stupid college student” look and told me to go into the bathroom and put on a tube top, unless I was fine going topless. I put on the tube top.
As I emerged from the bathroom, I was greeted by one of the most intimidating figures I have ever seen in my entire life. He was well over six feet tall, covered in tattoos, long ponytail, long beard and his name was…Krill. For a moment, as I approached the chair he gestured me toward, I did wonder if that was short for something or if he changed his name to Krill. Maybe I misheard him?
All thoughts disappeared when Krill told me, in no uncertain terms, to straddle the chair so he would have access to my shoulder. Again for the purposes of the story, let me just say that I’d never worn a tube top, nor had I ever straddled anything. My senses were on overload at this point, but I was going to get a tattoo. It was my time and I would straddle Krill’s chair, damn it.
I sat and was beginning to really question my ability to survive because the needle hadn’t even come out yet and my hands were shaking. I closed my eyes as Krill explained his procedure and wiped my shoulder with alcohol. I’m focused on breathing at this point, drifting in and out of thoughts about HIV or just infection and wondering if Krill is certified in whatever it is he needs to be certified in. I couldn’t remember if I saw any certificates on the wall. I was too distracted by the rose spiraling around my greeter’s neck as she sent me to the bathroom.
I could feel Krill’s hand on my shoulder. He asked me if I was ready. I opened my eyes, determined. Krill smiled and his teeth were perfect. I mean movie star, veneer perfect. He leaned it and told me to relax and his breath smelled of Lifesavers, not the minty kind, the fruity kind. I was bonding with Krill and then he said, “Oh, do you mind if I finish watching my movie while we do this? It’s almost done and it’s one of my favorites.” I think I nodded, I don’t remember because I was trying to figure out how you could watch a movie and inject dye into someone and then he said, “Have you ever seen Princess Bride?”
Badass biker, it’s been done a million times. Biker committed to exceptional dental hygiene, sweet breath, who says out loud that Princess Bride is one of his favorite movies…those are the quirks.
My thoughts from the laundry room. As You Wish.