by Victoria Chavez
Finding a man in New York is not hard. Finding a good man in New York, just like anywhere, is difficult. After enough cheap beer at my favorite bar in the city I decided it was time to make my way home before midnight, when the trains run less frequently. From Rudy’s I have to walk through Times Square to catch my train. Times Square is a spectacle. So many movies set in New York City will have a scene that displays the bright lights and big screens of midtown, but after living here for a while like other New Yorkers, the only reason to go there is to go to a Broadway show or take an out-of-town guest to see its garishness. The reason to avoid it is all the damn tourists. Droves and droves of people. Many of them looking up or standing still or blocking the sidewalk. Just generally there to get on your nerves when you are over the sensation of Times Square. The restaurants and stores there you can find in any suburb in America, but it reels them in.
When I head home from Rudy’s I don’t have to go through the thick of Times Square but on its periphery. There are still plenty of people. Vendors line the sidewalk to sell these tourists a cartoon sketch of their face, henna tattoos, their names painted in Asian-like letters, or their names spray-painted on a cap. The same things you can get at any fair in the country, but where tourists with money go, so do these vendors. Un commemorativo de Nueva York. As I was walking to the subway station, I caught a henna tattoo vendor’s eyes. He looked up from his customer, I looked at him and smiled and he smiled back. A smile isn’t something you get so easily around these parts so it is noticed.
“Would you like a tattoo?”
“No thanks. I don’t have any money.”
“No problem. It’s on me.”
He asked me what I wanted and where I wanted it. Hell if I know. I’m not cool enough for a permanent tattoo. I thought about it years ago at the beginning of the ubiquitous trend, but it didn’t happen. What means enough to me to put on my body? That would be food and it is on my shirt. Okay, the birth and death dates of my parents? I think it goes without saying that while I love my parents, I don’t want to be a walking tombstone. A meaningful saying to inspire the masses? Don’t feel like being a walking bumper sticker. Don’t we end up hating these people anyway? An ancient symbol never before seen to show how unique I really am that ends up being just as unique as the guy-sitting-next-to-me’s ancient symbol? That’s a non-starter. A Dragon Spitting Flames to outwardly portray the Inner Dragon in me? Get real! Or some barbed wire to go around my bicep and triceps to flag to everyone the aging process of a woman where the arm is least forgiving, but then again it’s likely I’d get a discount on fence material. To be practical, I should get something to camouflage the genetic hump at the base of my neck or to make my stomach look like a six-pack, but that’s not going to happen either. I’m just not cool enough for a tattoo. I told him to decide what and where figuring that he’d go for the top of a boob. He instead chose my chest just below the collarbone. He gave me a butterfly in flight which later took flight right into my sheets which took a good soaking to get the ink out. He forgot to mention that. He was very quick and it looked good. He asked my name and gave me his. I thanked him, gave him a peck on the lips (I don’t know what got into me! I guess the tattoo made me instantly more suave), and I walked down into the station. That was it. That was the exchange.
Two weeks or so went by and I was en route from Rudy’s to the subway station again. Did I mention $7 pitchers of beer and free hot dogs? And lo and behold, Efron, the Henna Tattoo Guy is there in the same spot. He was giving a tattoo so I pause to say “Hello.” He looked up and recognized me. He smiled.
“Yes. Efron, right?”
“Yes, you remembered! You want another tattoo.”
“No, I just wanted to say ‘Hello.’”
“No? Stick around. I will be finished in a second.”
I waited for him to finish and he insisted on giving me another tattoo; this time, various stars going across my shin at an angle to my calf. I have to admit something about the tattoos made me feel cooler for a moment. Not quite the Outlaw Josey Wales but something foolishly like that. He finished the tattoo and asked me if I wanted to go for a drink.
“It looks like you’re still working. We can do it some other time.”
He eagerly told me that it was not a problem. Then he and his nephew started packing up his stand and he did his part at a feverish pace. It was flattering to see someone getting excited at the prospect of getting to spend time with me. At least that’s what I was thinking. I wasn’t thinking about in what capacity. He broke down his stand in five minutes flat, handed his nephew money to pay for the cab, hailed one, and loaded his equipment and his nephew into it. He then hailed us a cab and we got inside.
“Wanna go to the Village?”
“Where do you wanna go?”
“Any place is fine.”
We got out in the Village and went into a bar. I’ve already had a few beers so he decided he needed to catch up to me and ordered a Long Island Ice Tea. I ordered a vodka and soda and while I was still sipping on it, he ordered another. He downed it before I was finished and was ready to move on to a Karaoke bar nearby. We got to the door and the bouncer had the size and looks of Andre the Giant. I had never seen bigger hands before. He checked our IDs and we headed into what appeared to be a college bar. The Henna Tattoo Artist ordered another Long Island and me another vodka and soda. He handed me twenty dollars to pay for the drinks and went to put in his request for karaoke. He paid the karaoke deejay $5 to get to the top of the list. I paid for the drinks and tip and when he returned I handed him his five dollars in change. He told me to hold on to it. I asked why.
He said, “Just hold on to it!”
Okay. So I put it in my back pocket. He opened up his wallet, took out a fifty, and told me to hold on to that, too.
“Well, you said you were out of work.”
“Well, I am. But that’s not your problem.”
I declined the fifty. I am not used to getting handouts from a stranger, much less a potential romantic interest. Soon, he sang his rendition of “Hotel California” to the pleasure of the young crowd and then returned to the bar to order another drink. He suggested we move to the back of the bar where there was more space and couches and said maybe we could dance later. There were maybe two other people back there.
We sat at the corner of a couch with him on one side of the corner and me on the other. Trying to make conversation, I mentioned something to the effect that I was surprised more people weren’t back here because it was a nice space. We had already covered our basic vital statistics at the first bar so apparently this was just the cue he had been looking for to tell me how big his dick was. Efron is maybe 5’5”, just slightly taller than me. Not that a short man can’t be well-endowed. Nevertheless, I furrowed my brow and tilted my head in disbelief at what I had just heard. Not the fact so much, but that he said it so matter-of-factly.
“I’m serious. It’s really big. Most women can’t handle it.”
I told him that I didn’t care to hear about it. Honestly, it didn’t matter. Now, call me crazy, but personality, that matters. I suppose I should have thought about talking about how nice the weather had been or the NASDAQ markets. Apparently, since I had expressed no interest, he decided to turn in up a notch and things turned decidedly After School Special. I could practically hear the saccharine music playing in the background. He said he had always been like that, that he had been made fun of his entire life. It failed to pull at my heartstrings. Of all the things to be teased about, I’m sorry, a big dick wasn’t registering too high on my sympathy list. I tried looking at the huge TV screen looming above, a tactic to change the subject, but he wouldn’t let it go…literally. He continued to talk about it and told me to look. He pulled his jeans taut around his thigh and there it was! Leaping lizards! But this reptile was not a lizard but rather a trouser snake…or a python I should say, by the looks of it. Erect of flaccid that was the question. I had no idea. Either way it was big! And I was in shock. I don’t know if it was more about the size or that he was putting it on display in a denim showcase. Lord have mercy!
“What are you doing?!”
“See. I told you it was big!”
“I believed you. I don’t need to see it!”
I suppose he thought my loins would quiver with unrestraint, that I would climb up on top of him, lovingly stroked his pant-legged python and beg to see it in person. I didn’t. Luckily no one was around to witness my pathetic attempt at composure. I was embarrassed. He stood up petulantly and told me he was going for a smoke. Five minutes went by and I knew I had been ditched. What the..?! And why didn’t I hold on to that fifty?! I took the train home from the Village and didn’t know what to make of any of it. I chalked it up to another lesson about life in the Big Apple.
A couple of weeks went by and as I was almost at LaGuardia on the bus to meet my sister, I got a mysterious text:
“How are you Victoria?”
“Fine. Sorry, who is this is.”
“Henna tattoo guy.”
I had forgotten that I had given him my number.
“Efron? What happened to you?”
“I got sick and someone put me in a cab. I wanted to apologize for my behavior. I got drunk on an empty stomach and was talking nonsense.”
“Ok. Thanks. That’s nice of you.”
“How did u make out that nite?”
“Went home on subway.”
“U home now? On my way to work.”
“At airport meeting sister.”
“Nice. Was I rude to you? What was I saying?”
“A lil. Just talking about your endowment.”
“Lol. Haha. What did I say?”
“That you were big and then you showed it in your pants.”
“Wow sorry. Did it offend you? —Did I whip it out of my pants?”
I didn’t answer right away and he sent another text.
“Guess that’s the last time you’d go out with me, huh?”
“It was a bit shocking.”
“You sure you want to try it again? I’ll leave my penis out of it this time.”
“Maybe. After my sis leaves. She’s here till Tuesday.”
“Okay. Keep in touch. By the way, I find you very attractive. You have a beautiful smile. I don’t think I told you that.”
I met my sister at baggage claim, told her about the apology and we agreed that it was nice of him to text and try to explain. We hit the town and had a lot of fun. One night she met a bartender who wanted to hook up after he got off work. To avoid being the third wheel, I headed home and again I was in Times Square. Efron was in his usual spot. I figured I had forgiven him and would stop and say hello. We all do stupid shit when we get drunk. I stopped and he smiled at me, told me to hold on. He finished with his customer and asked me if I wanted to go have drink. Again, I said we could do it another time because he was still working. He said it wasn’t a problem. He got three more customers and I waited for him. With a deft hand he painted a dragon on a boy’s arm in less than five minutes; he wiped off a teenager’s stomach and re-did her viney, leafy flower, also under five minutes; he did a tribal print on another little boy’s arms, also under five. Over thirty dollars in fifteen minutes. Not a bad gig. His brother was with him and he and Efron tore his stand down at the same speed as before. Then his brother headed out with the equipment and we got in a cab and head to the Village again.
“I’m really glad you’re here,” he said. “It’s good to see you again.”
Then he laughed in sort of apologetic embarrassment. He grabbed my hand. It was nice to get attention after feeling like a wallflower with my sister in town.
“Whatever you want to do! I got it! Dinner, drinks…hotel?! I got it.”
“Dinner or drinks are fine with me.”
“You sure you don’t want to go to a hotel?” he laughed.
I didn’t laugh. I told him that I didn’t. We got out in the Village and got a drink at some bar with some über-cool (the kind who use “über”) aloof people. Efron was anxious to leave. The bartender wasn’t very hospitable. We simply weren’t cool enough. I didn’t mind. We were walking around and the crowds were slowly making their ways home. I noticed a store with a line coming out of it and then the smell hit me. The delicious smell of fresh pastries! It was a crepe place.
“Oh. That smells good!” I said.
“You want one? I got it! Whatever you want.”
I ordered a banana and strawberry crepe with Nutella and vanilla ice cream. Efron paid the cashier and I stood aside for them to prepare it. Efron told me he was going to step outside to smoke.
“You’re not going to disappear again, are you?”
He smiled, said, “What, you think I’m crazy?”
I said, “Okay.”
It took five or so minutes to get my order and it was either shortly before I got it that I had the same feeling from a couple weeks before: I had been ditched…AGAIN! What the fuck?! But it didn’t stop me from enjoying every morsel of that divine crepe. I will not be seeing Efron again, but I have reconsidered my position on getting a tattoo. It might be that of a crepe entwined by a denim-clad snake—akin to the symbol of the American Medical Association—to remind myself not to be such a dumbass.
Victoria Chavez is a writer and, like all serious writers, she lives in Brooklyn, Ny. She welcomes your comments on “Henna Tattoos and Trouser Snakes” at chaveztoria[at]hotmail.com.
photo by Kojach.