LION TO MYSELF

Today is my birthday.

Now, I didn’t wait until today to post because it’s my birthday. I waited because the week got away from me, Friday got away from me, and the weekend got away from me, and then, suddenly, I’m here. But, in my defense, I am here, now, sitting alone in the living room of our house at three in the morning, and, in order to justify the maintenance of the blog by posting once a week, will post about my birthday.

What about my birthday?

I don’t hate them — certainly not the ceremonial aspect of them. I just don’t look forward to them, because it means I’m getting older.

I’m not ready to get older. I’m not ready to die. Birthdays mark another year past, another year with a long list of ambitions undone.

But, that’s my bad, not getting older’s, I guess.

For some reason this makes me think of a brief story about a tattoo I got when I was living in Chicago.

See, I’m a leo — proudly, so — and I’d seen this image of a lion head on the L Train one afternoon at Fullerton.

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I was so taken with it, I took out a piece of looseleaf paper and traced the outline and filled it in with pencil.

I took it to a woman who did tattoos out of her house in Humbolt Park. She was so pleasant, and actually looked like she should be a librarian, dressed in cardigans and broaches, but yet you could see the smears of ink on her arms peaking out from underneath the cuffs.

She would tattoo whatever you wanted, no judgement — as most artists do. And I handed her this piece of paper, with the lion’s head on it, and said, “This.” And she gave me a look, and said, “This?”

I said, “Yup.”

Several weeks later I was sitting in the living room of an apartment I shared with two roommates, leafing through a copy of the Sunday Tribune, and I came across a full page ad for The Lion King: The Musical, coming to the Cadillac Theater downtown that month.

And there it was — the lion.

My lion.

It was the marketing image for The Lion King: The Musical, and I hadn’t realized it — bold, black, and brazen, etched permanently into the meat of my calf.

Over the years, when I’m in shorts, I get comments and questions about it all the time. Once, in the Paris Metra, I was practically accosted by a Frenchman who announced, “Simba! Simba” as he slapped my leg.

I’m not self-conscious about it anymore, because the older you get, even though the act itself of aging is hard, the smoother youthful errors blend behind you into just living, the sum total of tragedies and triumphs that we don’t have as much control over as we hope.


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