By Jane Ozkowski
Saturday night, I found myself with a job at the National Motorcycle and Tattoo Show. I sampled kangaroo jerky and held out impotent pamphlets for motorcycle safety courses to bikers with face tattoos who refused to make eye contact.
And after I was at a friend’s house, drinking wine from a teacup and listening to a French band from Brazil. It was a record from the 1970’s, both authentic and ironic, and apparently, it kept skipping, and it might have been the wine, but I didn’t notice.
The tattoo booths, lined up at one side of the show, held overweight men with their shirts off and smelled antiseptic like some intimate sickness as though HIV had a scent. Even after I got on the streetcar, I could hear the tattoo guns buzzing like there was a man in the back seat giving out free tattoos to children, “Did you want an eagle or a crucifix?” He’d ask. “I’m only doing eagles and crucifixes from now on, or I can tattoo a picture of a cat on your neck.”
It was raining nuts and bolts as I walked Dufferin to King to catch the streetcar going east, and I kept my eyes on the McDonald’s sign, Over 99 Billion Served. I passed people going in either direction with bags of french-fries and greasy burgers, and I pretended I didn’t need to eat. I would get drunk faster if I didn’t have dinner.
On the streetcar, I listened to a mother scream at her son. A man and a woman got on and talked to the kid about Thomas the Tank Engine, and then everyone was calm. I sat beside a man with red hair, and we didn’t look at each other the whole way.
At The Motorcycle and Tattoo Show, there were Bikers for Christ, the Ride for Lupus, the Jewish Defense League and the Sons of Anarchy. The man at the jerky stall told me he’d almost perfected walrus jerky, and everyone had matching vests because they were all in secret clubs, and I wasn’t a part of any of them. Three policemen walked by, but I didn’t see them arrest anyone.
I didn’t really know anyone at my friend’s house. I had another friend who was supposed to be coming but not until later, and for some reason I was sitting on a bar stool, and everyone else was on regular chairs below me. It didn’t make me feel like a king though. I drank my wine and ate popcorn and tried to pretend I wasn’t hungry and tried to think of things to say that were funny but non-offensive.
The tattoo booths all had line ups, and I was too shy to speak to anyone there. I wanted to go up to the neck tattoo people and cover their noses and mouths to see if they could breathe through the holes in their skin. I wanted to ask everyone there if their blood felt more colourful now that they had ink inside of them.
When I got off the streetcar from The Motorcycle and Tattoo Show, I still had to walk a long way to get to my friend’s house. I took a side street, and the walk felt even longer because it was just me. There was a light on in almost every house, and I don’t know why, but that made me so sad. Maybe it was that I was hungry, and I didn’t know how far I needed to walk, or maybe it was that I could hear my footsteps and each streetlight projected a perfect circle onto the wet pavement, or maybe it was just that all those people, metres away from me, were already at home, and I still had a long way to go.