Reader, I shandied it.

It was clear that we would need sustenance before embarking upon our escapade. And so I arrived at Martinus’s laden down with croissants, champagne, Chanel (which I was magnanimously returning), ibuprofen and lorazepam. In the end, I felt confident that a pain au chocolat on my inside (for strength!) and Coromandel on my outside (for courage!) would be sufficient to see me through the entire procedure. [1]

Martinus drove us to the Silverlake establishment, and when we arrived, giddy and slightly hysterical, you never saw a duck quite so out of water nor a rabbit quite so out of its hat as these two hopelessly English, soft-bellied babblers among the hard-torsoed, taciturn, tattoo artists.

Martinus went first, and as he bit his lip and gripped my hand, I thought, “this is a bit what it must be like to support someone who is in labor.”

He was very brave, and required neither an epidural nor even pleaded for narcotics!

Then it was my turn. I looked away, just as I do when I have blood drawn. It wasn’t horrifically painful. But the duck-rabbit was in an extreme state of nervous tension (afterwards, Derrek, our very gentle and sweet-natured tattoo artist, would observe, “I could tell beforehand that you were a bit too over-excited”).

Blackness closed in, nausea rose, my torso slipped down in its chair, my head fell back. Oh, la! A fit of the vapors! The limp duck-rabbit was tenderly attended by burly men, one of whom brought a stool to elevate its feet and produced a glass of orange juice, while the other placed cold washcloths on its neck and conjured a lollipop.

Martinus was entrusted with a fan and directed to blow cool air on my face. In my delicate state I had just enough breath to ask him if he wished to take my pulse, for I am sure I have one of the best pulses of any duck-rabbit in the world.

He demurred.

“There are worse occupations in this world,” I managed to whisper weakly, “than feeling a duck-rabbit’s pulse.”

“But a tenured professor’s!” he said. “And in an open shop!”

Thankfully, the cool air, compresses, and cherry lollipop all proved sufficient to calm my racing heart, and Derrek was able to resume his etching. In an extraordinary feat of stoicism, I endured the rest of my inking with only a few grimaces and forceful clutches of Martinus’s poor hand as the line slowly curled its way behind my upper arm.


Two days later, I had to give an oral exam to a student whose dissertation is about digression in eighteenth-century novels. I fantasized that at the very end of the exam I would say, “And for your final question: what’s THIS?” while dramatically pulling up my left shirt sleeve, thereby revealing the serpentine line, which would surely elicit gasps of amazement and admiration from student and colleagues alike.

As Martinus noted, her response might with some justification be, “Well, kinda inappropriate, frankly.”

I spared her. But afterwards I showed her and she laughed and said, “Oh, I was totally gonna get that but then I heard a grad student in Comp Lit has it so I decided not to.”

“What????” I exclaimed, perhaps a little too loudly. “Someone in Comp Lit at this very institution already has this exact tattoo?”

“Yeah,” she said, but then seeing my aghast expression added hastily, “but, I mean, just because someone else already has it doesn’t mean, obviously, that no-one else can get it, because it’s still, uh, awesome … and, uh, I might even still get it myself … maybe, ” she ended, weakly.

Man. I can’t believe it. The line of liberty is actually the line of conformity with the comp-lit-grad-student-imagination. Not that I have anything against comp lit. Or grad students. I just didn’t realize that I was still one, imaginatively speaking.

It’s kind of like my first year of grad school when I went out to explore Harvard Square and then came back to my residence hall and crowed with the swagger of a pioneer, “Guys, I have discovered this amazing coffee place! It’s called Starbucks, and they serve lattes!!!”

But hey-ho. Maybe there are more line-of-liberty-tattoos out there than you can shake a stick at. I don’t care. Because mine (and Martinus’s) is the best: the serpentiniest, libertiest, and stickiest. A thousand of your father’s most subtle syllogisms could not persuade me otherwise.


[1] As the remainder of this post relates, this confidence turned out to be ill-founded.


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