Authors: Angelica Siren
© Angelica Siren 2014, all rights reserved.
The rain was soaking through my clothes. I was on the back of Ronan's bike, flying along yet another seemingly nameless street in the heart of Dublin. I'm sure somewhere there was a map that would tell me the names of the avenues were weaving through, but to me they were just a collection of histories and half-remembered stories. I'd been learning my way around the city for months now, and most of what I'd been taught had to do with what pub used to be on which corner and where Sean or Dennis or whoever used to live. At first I was riddled with anxiety over my seeming inability to learn the local geography, but by that night I'd come to accept the truth of it - the way to learn a city is to live in a city. The names of the streets don't matter so much as the memories you make upon them. For now I had to do with Ronan's stories about where he grew up and who he knew. I was happy knowing that someday I'd have my own stories. Someday, I'd be able to tell my own child about how I'd come to the city and why I'd made it my home.
The great irony is that we were lost. Certainly Ronan knew where we were in Dublin, but we had been riding around small alleys and boulevards for nearly an hour, searching for an address he had written on a small scrap of paper. The bike came to a slow halt and he dug around in his pocket for the paper yet again. He tried to shield it from the pouring rain but I could see that the ink was beginning to smear. I had to hope we'd find the place before it became illegible.
"Fucking Wil," he said, "Why the hell would he move his shop out here in the middle o' nowhere, anyway?"
I held him more tightly, half to show my compassion for the situation and half to stay warm. I was sure that we'd find what we were looking for eventually. For now, I was happy to be with him, even if I was soaked to the bone. My light wool jacket was good at keeping out a morning chill, but when it came to rain it was all but useless. Not for the first time I found myself envying the thick leather jacket that Ronan and the other Druids wore daily.
Ronan shoved the paper back into his pocket and we were moving again, the rain flying seemingly horizontally into my face. I tried to shield myself behind my man as best I could, but it was no use. There comes a point where you couldn't get any
if you were thrown in a lake. We took a sharp turn around a blind corner and I gripped my arms around Ronan's body. I was already much better at riding on the back of his bike than I had been when we first met, two months before. I was a long way from feeling as comfortable on the machine as he did, but at least I wasn't afraid anymore. Ronan had taught me a lot of things, but how to fight through my own fears was the greatest lesson of all.
"Aha!" he exclaimed, pulling me from my reverie.
I looked up and saw a red and orange neon sign through the falling rain. The glow of the neon through the downpour made it look like a literal light at the end of a long tunnel, with a haze of mist surrounding it. He parked the bike outside the shop and I hopped off. I reflexively began brushing the rain from my clothes but it was no use. Even here, I was being soaked where I stood.
"C'mon," he said, moving towards the door, "Let's get you inside." He smiled at me in that way he had which always reminded me that things were going to be alright. Whenever times were dark, he'd smile and I felt better. Maybe it was silly to feel that way - after all, it was just a smile. Ronan knew a lot about life, but he couldn't tell the future.
Sometimes the world catches up with you and there's nothing you can do about it.
We pushed open the door to the shop and went inside. Across the walls were dozens or hundreds of framed pictures. Every one of them was a black print on white paper. I stripped off my sodden wool jacket and hung it on a peg near the door. My shirt beneath was soaked through as well, but at least it wasn't as heavy. I ran my hand through my hair, shaking moisture from there
"Oi, Wil," Ronan called out towards the back of the shop, "Bring us a towel, would ye?"
I heard a mumbled response from someone who must have been Wil
, though I couldn't make out the words. Thirty seconds later, he came to us with two large, dry towels in his hands and tossed one to each of us. As I dried my hair and did my best to make myself look presentable, I looked
over. I'd never met him before, but he had come highly recommended by Ronan, Garret and a few other Druids. He was an unassuming looking guy. He was short - about the same height as me - with balding blonde hair and a weak jaw. If I'd seen him on the street, I would assume he was a banker or an insurance salesman or something. That is, if I couldn't see his arms. From wrist to shoulder, each of his arms was a colorful tapestry. His tattoos told a hundred stories and more. Here and there I saw animals I recognized. In other places there were famous characters, script in half a dozen languages and geometric designs as well. Rather than being busy, the result was a work of art that you could stare at for hours and not grasp the full meaning of.
"So, what can I do for you lovebirds," he asked us when we seemed to be mostly dry once again.
Ronan turned at me and grinned, inviting me to tell Wil
just what I was looking for. I blushed and didn't say anything, knowing that Ronan would urge me forward the way he always did.
"She's after her first tattoo and we want to make sure it's special," he said, taking my hand and rubbing my fingers softly. I smiled at
Wil, not quite believing what I was about to do.
I don't have a problem with tattoos or anything. I just never thought I could find one that would look right on me. I'd been feeding Ronan the same line ever since he suggested the notion, days after we'd met.
Eventually he wore me down, or maybe he convinced me. Either way, he explained that people put too much stock in making their first tattoo important and meaningful. Tattoos can be great momentous works of art or they can be small clever designs. They have whatever meaning you bring into them, great or small. The important thing was allowing yourself to do it so you can learn how little of a big deal it really is.
Ronan had been encouraging me to get a cartoon character or a butterfly or something. His idea was that having a simple and normal tattoo would be the best way to convince
to get something more important down the line. I relented on getting a tattoo, but I decided to make it special the first time around. In the end I'd settled on a stylized drawing a rowan tree with eight small stars surrounding it. The name of the tree reminded me of Ronan and eight was always my lucky number - plus Ronan and I had met on the 8th of the month. It seemed just right without being too overtly pretentious, I thought.
I pulled the drawing I'd done out of my purse and showed it to Wil. He took a long time considering it, which seemed to be a good thing to me. He kept nodded and making agreeable sounds as he studied the drawing.
He looked up at me finally and said, "I like it, I like it. Did ye draw this yourself?"
I nodded to him. "Yep, I used to do a lot of illustrating, but it's more of a hobby than anything."
got a real talent for it. Where would
ye like it?" he asked.
Ronan and I had discussed location at length. In the end I'd decided to get it done on the calf of my right leg. The drawing was large enough to require ample space, but I didn't want to use my back or anything like that on my first tattoo. The leg seemed like a perfect choice.
While I got in the comfortable chair Wil
had set up for the tattooing, Ronan pestered him with questions about the new shop. I'd only gathered part of the story, but it sounded like
Wil used to run a much larger shop that was
in a nicer part of town, but for some reason he'd sold it and moved here.
Wil seemed evasive on the point, saying merely that he wanted to get out of the '
burbs. I had to grant it to him - as nice as the old shop might have been and as rough as the neighborhood was around the place - this new shop was very inviting. It looked more like a classy art gallery than a tattoo shop. I think maybe that was one of Ronan's gripes about the place. Bikers like
to get their tattoos done in a place that matches their rough image, not a gallery with state of the art appliances.
I was anxiously waiting for Wil
to ask me if I was ready or something like that, but it never happened. One moment I was sitting there, feeling the pressure and the next moment I was feeling pressure of an entirely different kind. Ronan stood beside me, holding my hand. At the time I felt like that was completely justified, though now I know he was just being sweet. It was painful and a bit shocking feeling at first, but I quickly came to understand that getting a tattoo is just not a big deal. When the tree was only half complete, I'd already become used to the sensation and was able to hold a moderately coherent conversation with Ronan while
The whole thing took just over an hour.
works fast but he really is a master at what he does and I understand why the Druids use him whenever they get their club tattoos and anything else important. By the end of the process, when he wiped away the excess ink and let me see my new piece for the first time, I was still in a bit of shock that I'd just gotten it done. It might be just a tree and some stars to the outside observer, but I would always know what that tattoo meant to me. I'd only been in Dublin for two months, but already the importance of this place and the people I was with were so great that I felt like commemorating them for the rest of my life with a piece of art on my body. When I bent my leg towards Ronan to show him the ink, he smiled wide and I could have sworn I almost saw a tear come to his eye. He knew the meaning of the tree and the stars and he knew that I was getting the tattoo for him. It was just a tattoo, but it was also the best way I had of showing him how big a part of my life he had become.
When we left the shop, the rain had lightened to a mere drizzle, and I was happy for it. I tied my jacket around my waist and rode with only my t-shirt to keep the small amount of rain off of me. It was a little chilly, but I didn't mind. When the wind cut into me, it made me feel even more alive. Every day with Ronan and the Druids, I felt like I was waking up and experiencing life in ways I'd never imagined possible, back in my boring life in Baltimore. Doors had been opened for me that I didn't even know where there, just a few short months ago.
Once he knew where we were going, the ride back to my house was much faster. Ronan had chided me for hanging on to my grandmother's house for as long as I had, and he predictably teased me for the decor as well. It was never more than teasing though. The house might be full of doilies and paintings of flowers, but it was still a home and he knew better than to mock me for where I chose to live. I knew that Ronan wanted me to move into his apartment, but it still felt like too soon. I had decided that, now that all of my paperwork was finalized, I would try to sell the house. I would only leave this place when it no longer belonged to me. In that way, I would keep myself grounded
as much as possible. When you are swept away in a series of exciting events like I had been, it can be easy to forget your responsibilities and just let everything slide. I wasn't about to let that happen with the house.
Ronan pulled the bike up alongside the house and turned back to look at me. He didn't say a word, but I could tell what was on his mind.
I asked him. Of course, wherever you go in the world, you know that coffee is always more than coffee. It's an invitation to come in and enjoy your hospitality. Sometimes that means pleasant conversation. Ronan and I were well beyond the pleasant conversation portion of our relationship though.
He grinned back at me and turned off the bike.
We hurried into the house, escaping the rain for the last time that night. I could see through the darkness that my neighbors had their lights on. No doubt they'd heard the bike arriving and were even now watching us enter the house through their blinds. I'd met my neighbors only briefly, but I knew they didn't like me already. Like everyone who knew her, they'd been very fond of my grandmother. That same familiarity didn't carry over through the generations though. To them I was just some American girl who had taken over their friends' home and was now bringing motorcyclists and other "rough sorts" into their neighborhood. I smirked at the light in their window, happy for the nuisance that I seemed to pose to them.
When we got inside, we took off our boots and stacked them by the door. I immediately went to the kitchen and started some water for the coffee before returning to Ronan in my entryway.