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No Hope No FearEddie Moreno
Hoop's was a beautiful tattoo, a tribal piece of filigree ironwork crawling up his entire left arm. At the end of every day, for a year of every night, he'd sit on the edge of his bed and fall into the fresh inky scar, planing his arm up and across his line of vision, twisting it to see the angles, the sweep of the wings. Spellbound, he'd fly for hours.

Lots of rain, Amsterdam, Hoop and his bike, the new blue tattoo. Once when on his bike, racing along the tracks in front of the tram he glimpsed out of the corner of his eye the flash of the tail feather of an eagle, blue skin, feather, he turned his head to follow it, mesmerized locked eye to wrist, eye to scar blue scar, he moved his head forward, closer. Sucked in! Gliding forward he followed, watched the feather flap and lift, his hand rose off the handlebar -- he flew -- forgot traffic the bike his life. The front tire slid then sunk into the tram tracks, and Hoop soared, took off, soared past the orange flags -- Go Holland -- airborne, then crashed skidded spread-eagled on the road in front of the Heineken brewery, Go Hoop! The road tore blood orange holes in his jeans his palms, skewed the front tire of the bike, wrenched the watch off his wrist. He jumped up, checked the tatt, still there, good, the tail feather still there, good. He ran two fingers over it blithely, blood pouring from his knees.

He'd remade his flesh the year before, at a San Francisco watering hole. For a few months he knew himself, the stitched-together face in the mirror. But those scars hadn't held, were fading. When someone broke a bottle of Bud against Hoop's brow, a light flashed in his head. He'd beamed instead of passing out, and then he licked the blood off his smiling lips. The queen who'd ripped open his face vanished from the scene, the crowd cleared Hoop some space, and he bled onto his white T-shirt until a sympathetic mate stepped forward and offered him a hand, a drink of beer, and led him out the door. Imagine, on the corner of 8th and Folsom, Hoop 6 feet tall and shirtless, bleeding generously onto his shoulders and chest, his blood wet T-shirt clumped against his face, trying to hail a cab. Security finally appeared and called an ambulance. He beamed through the three hours it took to sew his face back together at SF General, glad for the new life before him. This is it, he thought, I start life now, and for a month every day he examined his scabby face in the mirror, my life is here, the purple welts, the craggy lines, I am that scar, he'd say, touching his fingertip to his nose. Here's my lifeline, he'd say in his heart, tracking the rocky z crowning his forehead.

Hardly a sign of that fight was visible now, hardly a scar to prove he was alive, no comfort in the mirror, and in every new man's bed he told the story of the fight the bottle the stitching the scars. Really? they'd ask, incredulous, Where? and Hoop would trace the places on his face where there should have been scars.

But the arm, the trophy. Now everywhere he went, that scar was evident. It was talked about, lingered over, an invitation and something for him to be proud of. He wore it on the outside, like armor, and though he cherished it he never took it in, never held it inside. I am that scar. I am this tattoo he'd say in his head watching it rise and harden, his eyes following the ink blue lines knowing they were permanent and hard, watching them disappear, then reappear, disappear, but always reappearing, permanent hard dangerous beautiful.

He watched his fist disappear up any man's asshole, felt the tattoo exploring slick new worlds, first the tail feather, then the rain cloud, then the double headed eagle, the windrushed feathers of the Hopi rainbird, as his forearm got thicker, hand sunk deeper, skin of the man's hole stretched around Hoop's own skin. It served as a marker, how deep he went that time. Here's how deep I went with Chuck, he'd say to himself, looking at the feather's tip, that's Chuck's mark there. With some men Hoop could bury his arm to the elbow. He'd smile just before he sunk it all the way, look down, and there would be the two heads of the eagle watching him just the two heads iron-faced peering up at him the rest of the bird disappearing into the man's hole watching him eye locked to eye, Hoop mesmerized. Those men would look into Hoop's eyes, they'd both look into the eagle's eyes, then back at each other again. Hoop buries the whole thing, follows the eagles eyes into the man. Inside the man he burrowed, spread his wings, opened up, blew his own mind, blew his load.

The tattoo parlor in the Warmoestraat. Outside the sign says No Hope No Fear. When the artist put that tatt on him, in the studio in the Warmoestraat, opposite the Cockring, he'd told Hoop how junkies often tattoo the crook in their arms to hide track marks, said he makes a point of not putting ink there, So it doesn't look like you're trying to hide track marks, he says to Hoop. Hoop's looking across the narrow street, then into the crook of his arm, then across the street. The machinery buzzes and stings his arm, he's watching two men dress in the apartment across the way -- but dressing very very slowly -- moving back and forth across the entire length of the apartment, talking as they go. They start first with towels around their waists, pretending Hoop's not there, but putting on a show, first the towels, then the underwear, Hoop is distracted from the pain in his arm, the talk about the track marks, he's sitting in the window in the sun, watching the couple, back and forth, first one sock, promenade, then the other. It takes hours for them to dress. When they finish, it's nighttime. Looking Hoop in the eye for the first time as they go, they switch out the light, and go. Hoop looks down at his tattoo for the first time, and at the spaces in his arm where there is no tattoo, parts of his forearm, and triceps, and the crook in his arm where his veins pop up big.

San Francisco. I am that scar right there, Hoop thinks, looking at the divot in his arm, the scar tissue where he didn't get tattooed, the marks on his arms where he shoots crystal metamphetamine, that's me. He's looking at the scar right now, that's me, he says, right there, following the needle into the blue vein in his arm, drawing back rich red blood, injecting the speed, there I go he says, feels the cold rush of winter drizzle on his skin, feather's rustle, chest goes cold and hot, lungs taste like night wind, stars open up, there I go, he says, lost again, pushes the liquid into his body, flies out of himself, pulls the needle out of his body, caps it, applies pressure to the vein, flies out of himself, goes looking for more.

The scars are adding up, he's thinking as he's lying in a sling. In the mirror to his left he can see himself, funhouse mirror makes his arm look huge, great big bonanza of a tattoo. The man above him, and it's not Chuck, says Aw your ass feels good, smooth as a glass pipe, stick my hand up there your ass just reaches out and grabs it slick and smooth as a glass pipe. They smoke some more meth, the man's hand still in Hoop's butt, Hoop's clear as a glass pipe, the blue smoke fills his lungs, opens him up, he's floating in the sling, big bonanza of a butthole opening up, he's floating in the sling, begging for more, yeah this is me now, clear as a glass pipe, open me up, he says, swinging, smiles at himself in the mirror, evil grin, look at me now, he thinks, smiles up at the man, they smile together like they're doing something together -- but Hoop is clear, clear as a glass bell -- this is my journey, this is my bell. He looks at himself in the mirror, smiles, this is my journey he thinks, this is my bell, that's me right there he says to himself and he and his friend lock eyes in the mirror. Hoop rocks in the sling, swings his arm out. In the mirror, the image becomes all tattoo.

Hoop's alone. In his apartment, San Francisco. He thinks about Chuck, in Amsterdam, in the Warmoestraat, in the tattoo parlor. No Hope, No Fear. The apartment across the way is empty. The artist works on Chuck's tattoo. Chuck's tattoo is on his back so he can't see it, but Hoop can see it -- he can see it so well in his mind's eye in that he can touch it. Hoop's alone, in his apartment in San Francisco. He wants a big tattoo, too -- a big tattoo on his back so he can't see it -- so it's almost like there's nothing there at all, except for the pain, he remembers the physical pain of getting a tattoo. Feels now the slow painful process of the two men dressing and living together -- back and forth, back and forth -- whose sock? whose tattoo? The tattoo gun buzzes and stings. He wants a big scar across his back. Something solid to hold him up.

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