November 6, 2016 — Riding high on life this week after Mario’s amazing (sex-filled) visit, I decide to get a tattoo. I’m 38. I’m a lawyer. I have no tattoos. Mario, however, has a number of them. He’s an artist. Back in our high school days, he was in my art classes. His painting of a man meditating was paired with one of my poems titled (ironically) “Loneliness.” It was published in our Senior year literary journal. On his artworks, he stamps a Korean seal — the size of a penny — that spells out his name. This would make an awesome tattoo.
On his trip to New York, as we lay in bed naked, he traces his finger on my shoulder. “What are you spelling?” I ask. “Mario was here,” he answers. I know he’s a bit fearful. We are exclusively seeing each other. But we live a thousand miles away. Mario’s marriage ended, in part, with his discovery of his ex-wife’s long list of adulterous affairs. Now, I’m in New York City — a hot-bed of beautiful people and sex (at least according to television, oh, and that wild fling I had with a 26-year-old).
Do I want a tattoo of Mario’s name in Korean? What are the consequences of a “name” tattoo? I always tell people there are two rules in life: 1) don’t co-sign on a student loan, and 2) don’t get a tattoo of your spouse’s name! I decide I don’t give a fuck. I want his artist stamp on my shoulder, exactly where he’s traced his name.
We talk about it. He’s surprised and flattered. “You don’t need to do this,” he says. “But I’m truly honored and humbled.” What does his name mean, exactly? In Latin, the meaning of Mario stems from Mars (Roman god of war). His middle name is Korean: Cho — it means beautiful. (The stamp doesn’t have his last name.)
Wanting information, I google the hell out of “Mars.” The god Mars was more level-headed than the Greek god of war (Ares). Mars is known as the protector of Rome and father of Romulus and Remus (the mythical twin founders of Rome). Having spent a semester abroad in Rome during undergrad, I’m hooked. My tattoo is not just Mario’s name, it also means “beautiful god of war” or “beautiful defender of the people.”
I get my tattoo this week, and then next week I plan to vote for another “beautiful defender of the people,” aka Hillary Clinton. My Hillary Tumblr is in full swing. I’m looking forward to having the election over so that my parents and I can be on speaking terms again (not that they are Trump supporters, but they swing right). They don’t always agree with my choices — across the board. (But they always emotionally support me in a pinch).
Looking for tattoo parlors, I hop on Yelp and locate one in my neighborhood. This one is near the subway and I’ve walked by before. It is striking in appearance — the parlor doesn’t have gobs of tacky suggested tattoos. Instead, it is styled like an old fashioned barber shop. The artists are there to create art. I make an appointment and head over the next day.
My artist, Cristian, takes his time transferring the tattoo. It will be about the size of a quarter. I want red because stamps of this kind are used with red ink. Cristian is patient and places it several times on my shoulder until we find the right spot. The little needle pricks are annoying. I can see how larger work would get painful. The whole thing takes about an hour. I show Jake and Erin the final results. “Well,” says Jake, “If things with Mario don’t work out you can always cover it. I vote for a large fire-breathing dragon down your arm.”
Mario is excited. He gets a little teary when I show him on Facetime. My “friends” on Facebook are inquisitive. I don’t post a pic of my new tat — maybe later. My mother is incredulous:
No. I don’t tell her that it also means “Mario Cho.” But, I’m sure she’ll find out one day.
In other news, Jake runs the New York City Marathon. Erin and I take my kids to watch. We make signs and we cheer. We help each other and the kids navigate the crowds and the subway. This is how co-parenting and blended families should be. Jake runs an amazing time and the boys are proud.