The day it changed.
Bits and piece of memory that should be excised? I’m unsure of how to proceed. Disparate portions of memory break free and float into my consciousness, for whatever reason, and it’s the smallest of observations, tiniest of comments, maybe nothing, something, that changed my life forever.
Trip to Santa Fe, NM, about a dozen years back, maybe further than that. Must’ve been longer ago. I was young, and we were on an exciting road trip that meant something. I’m not sure what. I recall, though, in a coffee shop in Santa Fe, not Albuquerque, but I would’ve liked that, but in Santa Fe.
The ochre, almost a faded enchilada red adobe walls, weathered and aged pine logs supporting the roof. A couple of tables, rough-hewn, weathered. Artist, in New Mexico for that peculiar and particular brand of light. The yellow sun, like the state’s flag. Sort of.
What I was recalling though, I can’t recall coffee, or the food, I think it was breakfast, but I recall a waitress. Long, dark hair. Rustling “peasant” skirt, again, a dull ochre with folds, braided belt, white or off white puffy blouse. With embroidered trim. Bare arms.
Left arm, stretching almost from the elbow to her shoulder? The Virgin of Guadalupe, almost identical in size and shape to what would appear on a candle.
This was far enough back, means it was before I worked in the bookstore, so it was long enough ago, that tattoos weren’t commonplace, like they are now. It was also a cross between an identical replica of that religious candle image and a prison tat. India Ink, old school, kind of tattoo. Huge.
I had to date it like that since, it was at the bookstore, when I worked there, I met my first “Tattooed Man,” one of the other employees rolled up his shirtsleeves to reveal delicate and intricate artwork. We all have to have hobbies.
That one image stuck with me, the Virgen de Guadalupe, on that waitress. I’m at a loss to explain why. Perhaps, at the time, I had a candle like that at home. Perhaps it was the first time I saw open and weird ink. Perhaps it was the choice. I can’t recall much about the woman, either way. Just the inked image.
Something, in me, changed that day. Forever changed.