Monday, February 25, 2013

Keep it on the Up High

Let's go back to a simpler time. Or something along those lines. The following story takes place in the Spring of 2003. I'm 16-years-old and probably very awkward.

During the eleventh grade, my mom and I briefly moved from Princeton back to Ripley, where we were originally from. We were staying with my grandpa. She occasionally made a few short-term trips back to Princeton during that time. So, for the most part it was just me and my grandpa, and his brother, my great-uncle, living there.

My grandpa had a cavernous, two-story house filled full of old, odd collectibles. So, I would often fill my free time by looking around at all of the stuff. It was during one of these scavenges that I stumbled across something that took me by complete surprise. Buried in a dresser drawer upstairs at my grandpa's house were five VHS tapes of pornography.

This was before the Internet pornographic industry was what it is today. This was still back in the days when you had to actually try to find porn. You know, now it's like, "Oh, there's some ancient tapes. Give me 3 seconds and I can pull something up on my phone." No, this was an amazing discovery, especially for a 16-year-old kid like me.

I remember opening the drawer and making the discovery. I couldn't move for a couple seconds. Even though I knew I was alone, I still cautiously looked around before slowly reaching my hand out and examining the tapes. Even with the VHS in my hand, I still wasn't sure what to do with it. I looked toward the VCR. I looked back down at the VHS, with its cheesy pornographic title. I walked over to the VCR and popped it in.

Without going into a lot of detail, let's just say that I had found a new hobby.

So, one evening several weeks later, I'm upstairs on the couch taking in a movie, when I hear a car pull up outside. Usually, only old people come over to see my grandpa. But, just in case I was needed downstairs, I turned the TV off and wandered over to the window to see who was there.

It’s my aunt, Mary. It's also my 11-year-old cousin, Jackie. I hear her running up the stairs. I'm running over to the television. It's turned off, but the VCR is still on. If you turn the TV on, I'm busted.

I'm standing in between her and the television. "Hey, what's up?" I meekly mutter. "Not much," she replies. "Let's watch TV." I suggest we go downstairs. As I'm tugging her arm down the steps she blurts out, "Why is the VCR on?" I ignore her.

All she wants to do is go back upstairs and I don't even know what to do. I'm trying to figure out every possible excuse to do something else or go somewhere else. Finally, she throws it out there - "Are you watching those videos in the drawer?"

I look at her for a second, not knowing how to respond. "Ummmm... Yeah, I just found them and thought I'd look at one." Luckily Jackie was still very innocent at this time. "I found those a while back and watched one. They're gross." I respond, "Yeah, I know."

"Sooooo… You're not going to tell anybody about this, right?" She says she won't. I ask her to keep this on the down low. She responds, "No, I'll keep it on the up high."

And that's how that inside joke started between the two of us. There were a few more times over the years where something would come up and we would say something about keeping it on the "up high." We'd give each other a smile or giggle and people would probably think we were dumb.

February 25, 2013 is the five-year anniversary of her death. Jackie died in a car accident. She was 16. I thought about ways to memorialize her. I wrote a few blogs about her back in the day. I thought about what else I could do.

The evening of May 8, 2008 I was sitting at my mom's house. I was alone. I had an idea in my head for a couple days. I was looking at myself in the mirror and imagining what this would look like on me. I decided to go for it. I walked down the street to the tattoo parlor and got Jackie memorialized on my chest.

The only thing that really sticks out about getting the tattoo was that the guy who did it was training an apprentice. He had the new guy shave a patch of hair on my chest. I joked and said that if he needed more practice he could do the rest. The tattoo artist asked if it was okay for the apprentice to put the stencil on me. I didn't have a problem with that, so I let him.

While he was tattooing me, he kept instructing the other guy, giving him pointers and things. He didn't say much to me. At one point, he asked if I smoked. The way he said "smoked," I think he was talking about marijuana. I said no and he awkwardly said, "Oh, okay."

Getting the tattoo was relaxing. It probably took about half an hour. It was only uncomfortable for a couple moments when he started tattooing near my armpit. When he finished he told me to take a couple days and if any spots needed touched up to come back and he'd fix it for free. He looked at the apprentice and said, "I tell them that so even if they're upset about something, they won't be as mad since I told them they can come back."

I walked home and checked myself out in the mirror. I remember calling my mom while I was standing in the bathroom and telling her about it. She got choked up and almost started crying. Then I went to the living room where my computer was and took a couple pictures on the webcam and posted them to MySpace. One of them is below.

That's the only one of my tattoos that really has a story behind it. I just thought the other ones would be cool. "Really? You thought a smiley face on the inside of your forearm would be cool?" Leave me alone.

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