In my teens, I was a lifeguard with Moe. He was the coolest guy I’d ever met because he had a girlfriend, did yoga, fixed his own motorcycle, traveled the world and cool stuff like that.
Instead of listening to music by guys trying to scream the loudest and the longest, Moe listened to bands like Phish and the Grateful Dead. (Side note: I actually thought the Grateful Dead was a heavy metal band because skeletons decorate their stuff and “Dead” is in their name.)
Moe quoted books I’d never read but knew that I should, like “Catch-22.” He wasn’t obsessed with science fiction, but science and fiction. And also, um, essential oil healing-type stuff.
Girls’ knees buckled when he showed up in his lifeguard swim trunks, Birkenstocks and no-brand sunglasses. He never wore sunscreen because he was one of those guys who always looks tan.
During rest periods or lunch breaks, Moe would tell us how he rafted down the Amazon, explained how loose tobacco is healthier than pre-rolled cigs or how people in Prague were “just cooler.” Back then, I wished I could say something cool, but I was happy just listening.
I wanted to emulate Moe by relaxing, being fit and talking to ladies. Most of all, I wanted his confidence. Maybe Moe learned this from travel, so I decided I’d leave my boring, little bubble and go on adventures.
After returning from another trip, Moe strolled into the lifeguard office wearing new yarn trousers from Thailand.
“Asia is, like, so different than the USA,” Moe informed us. Girls fawned over him while I studied him. I knew I couldn’t pull off the motley pants, but maybe with a few studies abroad, I could look into girls’ eyes while talking to them. “Asians are so rich with, like, culture. That’s why I got this tattooed.”
Moe pulled up his right pant leg to show his outer calf. The room grew silent. I blinked a few times. Then a few times more.
Moe nodded, “So cool, right?”
I said, “Moe. Why did you get a tattoo of a swastika?”
“No, bro. It’s not. You see —”
“Well, it looks like a Nazi sign. Tattooed on your leg.”
“It’s the Buddhist symbol for peace.”
“Um, try explaining that to Vanessa. She’s Jewish.”
“That’s the problem with Americans. They’re so quick to action.”
This went on for a few minutes until the pool needed us.
Not long after that discussion, Moe moved away in search of a better-paying job. I never found out what happened to him. Did he cover up or remove his Buddhist symbol of peace? Or maybe whenever he wears shorts, he explains his tattoo’s true meaning until he’s blue in the face. He might permanently wear trousers. I’d like to know.
Moral of the story: Think about your tattoos.