“It’s like we branded each other.”
She stepped up into the campervan, the original seats from 1988 creaking as she buckled the seatbelt and checked the mirrors. The dreamcatcher dangling from the rearview mirror was swaying slightly from the rocking of the van.
I watched all of this from outside the closed passenger door, the last time I’d see my traveling companion saddle up to ride. This time without me, in our Ford Econoline, tattooed with stickers and painted in a now faded red, white, and blue. White lettering on the tires stained by the dust of three deserts, ‘Home is wherever I am with you’ on the wall.
Traffic whirred behind her as the tattoo on my left arm throbbed. The very same one which peeked out from behind her tank top as she moved forward to start the van. Remembering to pump the gas as the old beast roared to life. She rolled down the window, stalling I reminded her where the extra oil was. Trying to hold on to a moment, like standing on a cliff's edge.
The grand fork in the road. But not one part of me felt as I could open that door. For the first time in my life, the road was not calling. Not even as my partner of eleven years sat with an open seat, bound to roar out of Los Angeles.
We pulled up the same playlist and she took one more loop around the park. I watched as she drove like a mustang out on the run, heavy on the gas as always. She gave me one more wave before pulling up that onramp, North on US 101. Out of my life forever.
Body art is a representation of the soul, a badge of honor.
‘Turn, Turn, Turn” (To Everything There Is A Season) — The Byrds. Played on queue as the high-top Ford Econoline with Nevada plates and “Battle Born” painted over the brake light rolled on.
The balmy late May afternoon reminded me the seasons we’re in fact turning and the tears starting to well in my eyes reminded me I needed to take a walk. By sunset, she’d be pulling into a campground on the Eastern Sierra and I would be standing atop the Hollywood sign.
The only way I could compete, she’d be spending her Wednesday crossing the Mojave desert driving a vintage land ship. That very same domicile now lives on my arm, in an eternal moment, suspended in air over a cliff’s edge in Southeast Utah. The image from the final scene of our favorite film ‘Thelma and Louise’.
“It's like we branded each other.” She’d said during our final goodbyes. it echoed through my mind as I set out to hike 22 miles before returning to what used to be our home.
A mutual tattoo is a lifelong bond. It reminds you of a soul, the energy formed between one another. Our bond was one that came around full circle back to friendship after a decade. The van was our child, a month of renovations became 70,000 miles of adventures from coast to coast and eventually, we spent a winter snowed in behind a ski area.
The tattoo is a bond to the time, to the van, and to my lifelong friend.
The scene bordered by the Navajo symbol of transformation on my arm isn’t just a ‘divorce tattoo’ but it is a reminder of that day, a reminder of gratitude. The closing of an adventure, the end of an era. A reminder that life is a series of choices, just as the pain of a tattoo is temporary as are those of the choice we make. It is these moments that create who we are, and the effects last a lifetime.
Experiencing life is an art in itself and tattoos are a visual representation of experience. Body art is a representation of the soul, a badge of honor. A loved one, a trip, a life lesson. A reminder to keep going. A symbol of experience and the expression of a connection with the journey that is life. We stamp ourselves with ink in an appreciation of experience, it is a gift to ourselves, and that is the greatest gift to receive.