So it’s five o’clock and I’m done with my cubbyhole for the day. I needed a few things, so I grabbed my wallet and headed down to the local Piggly Wiggly. It’s just a few blocks so I walk.
As I crossed the street into the parking lot I saw a young fellow getting out of a truck ahead of me. I picked up my pace, hoping to reach the door at the same time he did without too obviously lunging. He made it in just ahead of me, but I got a good look. Sandy hair, about six feet, lean, not too muscled but healthy, big feet and hands. Best of all, lots of upper body tattoos. A bad boy, looking fresh out of prison. What a treat.
Well, he had dashed in and picked up his item by the time I had gotten my cart, so I’m shopping in the area right next to the checkout aisle where he’s waiting to make his purchase. Subtle is my middle name.
Sure enough, after a minute or two he looks up, straight into my eyes. I decided not to look away, but gave him a “not quite a full smile” look, and something that was supposed to be a look of recognition but more likely resembled a leering gargoyle from Hell. He didn’t flinch, always a good sign. Then the cashier intervened and we went our separate ways.
A few minutes later I was done with my purchases. As I stepped out into the heat of the parking lot Bad Boy was leaning against his truck, so I walked by his truck carrying my bags.
As I walked by I gave him the standard small town greeting, and we chatted briefly. It turned out that I knew some of his relatives, creating the flimsiest pretext for a bond. As I turned to leave, I oh so casually let it slip that I’m on foot, remarking that I lived just down the road, “Look, you can see it from here.”
“Oh”, he says, “you need a ride”?
I acted surprised, but not too much.
That might give it away, and the mutual dance of pretending is half the fun.
Prison tattoos usually tell the life story of the prisoner in a complex, highly symbolic language. People will tell you amazing things about themselves if you give them respect and just pay attention.
A cross or a cathedral often means bondage, and may be involuntarily applied at the master’s insistence. Notice the eyes just above the genitals. It’s a warning to anyone thinking of having sex with this man, telling them that they are being watched, that in effect, he’s private property. The points of the stars often indicate the length of time spent behind bars. There are no skulls, which indicate deaths, and no weapons depicted. This man’s offense was probably nonviolent.
The ink for these tattos is made from urine, ashes and shampoo. Infection and death are not uncommon.
This Russian prisoner has an air of natural dignity, even nobility. You can see how utterly happy he is to be with his son. The crying woman depicted on his arm is the wife who waited for him on the outside, along with his son, who looks as though he will never let go of his father again. He was probably someone’s slave inside, as you can see from the massive cross. Perhaps it was the thought of his wife and son that gave him strength to endure his ordeal.
This Irish lad grants us an intimate peek at his shamrock clover, just for good luck.
Irish prison tattos often demonstrate great artistry and beauty.
I want something Irish for Christmas.