Chris DeLine

Cedar Rapids, IA

Given to Fly

Published in Strays.

It seemed out of place, like a leftover relic from when he had fewer reasons to be careful. That was a different time, and now when he spoke he did so with caution. He was guarded with his delivery and his eyes weren’t always there — it sounds stupid, but it was his ink that made him seem real. There was so much about him that I wanted to learn, but this made my mind wander — what sort of story could be so special that it was worth becoming someone’s only tattoo? I wanted to know why it spoke to him, what value it had. Who was this person with a small rectangle on his wrist, its negative space revealing the fuzzy outline of a seagull.

Reading a book about transcendence and personal freedom to gain the acceptance of a stranger isn’t without its irony, yet even now I don’t know what I was really hoping to gain by doing so. Was I trying to learn, or grow, or find something new out about myself or the world, or was I just leveraging personal nostalgia to gain someone’s good graces? At the time it felt like such an act of tenderness — absorbing myself in what had clearly helped make this person who they were. Hindsight aside, whatever good intentions might have existed weren’t enough to bridge the gap between who I thought he wanted me to be and who I thought I was.