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It is a rainy afternoon in late October. I am dressed for it: tight black jeans, black Salvation Army mock-neck polyester sweater, sleek-black coat. My favorite leather boots—heel-strike worn, the wood abraded at a slant—click against the dampened pavement. By it, I mean the weather, but also, the tattoo. My first. The sweater’s particular shade of nearly-black, its ‘70s vintage, signal [to my mind, at least] a suitable equation: poise and thrift and subtle edge; sleeves just loose enough to roll above the elbow. It is a Tuesday. After the tattoo, I will attend a lecture with a visiting writer. I will sit in a black-box theater in my black mock-neck sweater and prepare something articulate to say when asked for feedback. Underneath the sweater, the skin of my right forearm will prickle, smart, and redden. But I won’t know what that feels like until later. Until then—before the smart, before the theater—I am here. Unmarked, and walking. I listen to the speed and measure of my heels against the sidewalk. I wait for the traffic light to turn, hang left in front of the Wells Fargo, turn right into the alley off Third Street. I enter the tattoo parlor from a whitewashed wooden door. I turn the brass doorknob, step out of the rain-slick street, feel the warmth of yellow lamplight 82

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