The anchor tattooed below Aleksei's right eye doesn't mean he killed somebody. He's not in the Russian mob. He's not in a gang. The anchor keeps him steady. Every time he looks in the mirror he remembers to stay still.
There was a time when Aleksei had no such mooring. It was as though he lived by a bashed-in clock; days and nights held no significance. There was an hour here, in the pancake restaurant down the street, drunk on gin he stole from That One Girl, scribbling shitty poetry in the margins of a newspaper. An hour there, at Bobby's latest rave, wrapping up the leg he cut climbing through the window of the abandoned factory. Some afternoons, when his head was clear, he'd attend lectures at the museum. Some mornings he'd shoot heroin between his toes so he could remember how to smile.
One night he almost died. Not from the drugs. He was sleepwalking, and he wandered right into the middle of a four-lane highway. In that moment, before the car ran over his legs, Aleksei realized how good it felt not to move. He licked his lips, took a few deep breaths. He swallowed. He wished he could stay there forever, headlights shining bright in his eyes.
"You're a very lucky young man," said everyone who worked at the hospital. "I know," he replied. "How could you?" asked his mother. "I know," he replied.
After all the physical therapy was finished, Aleksei headed straight to the tattoo parlor, the one he'd walked past almost every day of his life, the one he'd barely noticed before. He offered to work their cash register and clean the floors for a month in exchange for some ink. Marty, the owner, agreed.
At first glance the anchor appears to drag him down. His lips are straight and serious; his brows are grim. But there's a certain calmness in his back and shoulders. His hands are steady. It's enough to make anyone envious.
Back from Las Vegas! Wrote up a few stories about people I saw there on the plane/train ride back, so I'll post another one Monday. Also, you should check out my most recent All Together Now post, in which I invent the plot of Quentin Tarantino's latest film. Taking notes, Mr. Tarantino?