It was the 13th day of the month and finally my last appointment for my back-piece had arrived. I slept over at Violets the night before and after she scurried off to work around 6am, as soon as the door shut behind her I started getting high. Today would be the end of a long journey. I spent the morning working and writing, drinking tea and having a humble breakfast of spinach and crumpets before taking a bus and then the over ground to get to the tattoo shop. I was kindly greeted as usual by the tattoo shop, they were weary as tattooers usually are in the morning, but soon became at least partially excited (and a bit uneasy) that I had made my famous salsa and guacamole and brought each of them a few prints as gifts which were well received and graciously accepted. I was in a celebratory mood that day and had an extra allotment of drugs to enjoy it. 60mg of the Dragon before we even started my session. I was happy, something that was less and less common when I wasn’t high. The day felt similar to graduating from school or receiving some kind of certificate of acknowledgement. Tangled in those emotions, I was high as a kite and endured the last 4 or 5 hours of pain gleefully all the way to the back-piece finish line, with the finishing touches and gaps filled in, I was wearing something that I was so very proud to have made by one of the artists who inspires me. The world just melted away in the moments that followed, I had accomplished what I came to do and there was a pride I felt in that, especially since I did so against pretty shitty odds. I dressed quickly in the bathroom and did another 20mg mixed with 20mg of Ritalin. I enjoyed those last hours of time at that tattoo shop with my world class tattooer and their crew. We went a little over the expected time limit and I wasn’t charged for it. I had finally completed the mission I had set into motion more than a year and a half before. My back was complete and as a tattooer, it’s a hard thing to describe, 50 hours and a fuck ton of money, trains, busses and bearing the pain, and in two short weeks of healing it would be mine forever. All love of history and myth were tangled up on my back, Caesar, Machiavelli, the cosmos and of course Venus big and blonde, gorgeous and only as my tattooer could execute her, gloriously floating there between it all in anti-gravity, between hidden constellations and nods to Greek mythology.
I knew I would be returning in a couple weeks for a final photoshoot once it had healed, so I tipped handsomely, handed her an original painting, which she immediately floored me by saying “your lines are perfect!” stunned I replied, Jesus, that’s high praise! thank you. I then quickly said my goodbyes and raced out the door. It was bittersweet to be finished but also a relief. What remained was a gorgeous piece of art that was finally completed and on such a short timeline. Sadly, I would no longer be visiting their shop every other week but alternatively, there wouldn’t be that additional £1k+ per month in expenses and one less thing to travel to. I would miss them, they were kind to me but they also kept me at arms-length, something I’m sure is common at that level of fame and notoriety. I didn’t expect to make life-long friends or anything but I will be remembered I think, and more than anything I think that’s all I really expected, to be able to greet them somewhere, sometime and see a smile of recognition and a kind hello.
Once outside the shop I made my way to Marks and Spencer’s and then wearily made my way south and finally home, victorious in my accomplishment and utterly exhausted. I greeted my elderly roommate and sat on my bed for a moment to enjoy the end of this chapter of my mission and just as I did, my phone vibrated. It was Liv from the tattoo shop in Shoreditch saying: “mate, you gotta call the shop right now.” Liv had text me only once before about trading shifts so immediately my heart sank and my thoughts raced: had I been stupid enough to give away my location? Had I been snitched on AGAIN??? My hands shook anticipating Immigration waiting there with a warrant.
All I could do is laughed to myself as I dialed, what are the odds that both shops I work at get raided on the one day of the week I was scheduled to be tattooed? I acknowledged in that moment that the Gods were certainly on my side, whether my wallet knew it or not. Ben, the apprentice answered the shop phone and panicked, said “the fucking bailiffs are here and they’re taking everything!” I had no idea what a bailiff was in the UK so I asked him straight if they were looking for me. Ben kindly laughed and said “no! why would they be? Do you owe them money too?” A bailiff in the UK is the equivalent to a repo man, they had come to collect all that was owed them by the owner in form of everything in the tattoo shop as collateral, including all the artists personal gear. I told Ben they had no right to take anything that belonged to an independent contractor after a quick read of British law and instructed him to grab it all even if he had to fight ‘em for it. That’s my whole life Ben I said with a bit of agony in my voice. He knew it, quickly agreed and hung up the phone. An excruciating hour passed until I got a call from that mighty apprentice saying he saved all of our gear and would keep it safe until I could collect it. A wave of relief, thank fuck for that man I thought, I’ll have to do something spectacular for him at some point. Henry the owner was in Los Angeles for the week and apparently hadn’t paid any of the outstanding judgements against him, nearly £50k from what I understand, he insisted it was a misunderstanding (which I found hard to believe) and that he “would make it up to me” I couldn’t see how he could really, his shop was so slow I had racked up more zero days there than I had in my career, while his shop was situated on one of the busiest corners in London, tens of thousands of people and tourists passing his doors daily yet the place sold piercings enough to supposedly keep the rent paid, but the tattooers sat in silence most days, the place was a tattoo money making black hole of improbability. there was literally no way the place couldn’t be successful, unless, as I imagine is true, the owner just kept running tattooers off and couldn’t keep any decent artists, but Christ, with even shit artists in that place it should have been turning out incredibly high-volume days from each tattooer with ease.
It was less than two weeks before I had planned to head north with Violet to Scotland but at this point I assumed the shop wouldn’t be opening again anytime soon. There was government tape across the entrance and a big red lettered notice on the door. I had a mostly finished sleeve I wouldn’t be able to finish that Sunday too, just the half sleeve remaining and that money would have paid for most of our Scotland adventures. The shop wasn’t doing very well true, but I did enjoy the kids and their eagerness to learn from me, I enjoyed knowing that Amy Winehouse at one time would come and hangout often before her death. I learned a lot from the owner, Henry. Mostly about self-promotion, he was skilled at landing in the newspaper and promoting events that didn’t involve the tattoo shop. He was a loud, self-centered man who rarely took more than a breath to listen to anyone else, while speaking in a never-ending blather of stories about himself. I think he may have been a little deaf and that was partially the reason he never seemed to listen. He was also in the midst of a breakup with his longtime boyfriend along with having just lost a major lawsuit, so maybe it was just in the timing. I respect the man, and wish things could’ve gone another way because, in the end, with so little in the “pro” column, I was forced to write the place off and hope for the best. I told Henry plainly and he took offence, I quickly diffused his anger saying I just didn’t see the value in coming in while the place recovered from having the doors shut for days, again he took offence and insisted it was up to me to find work, still oblivious to the fact I couldn’t reveal my location due to being on the immigration “people of interest” list. Hoping for the best was continually becoming of greater concern. Amsterdam, I was finding, with short notice and limited time to enquire, that the high season accommodation was completely out of my reach financially even for just the two weeks that were necessary. For the second time in 2018 with no job, all I could do was laugh as my precision plans just crumbled beneath me, I should have known better. Dreams and the plans to reach them are dirty, never as expected and always a battle uphill. Nothing is ever simple on the road. But in perfect Edmond form, I continue dreaming bigger with each day, aiming higher just as I have done since the beginning of all this no matter the expense to my personal success and wellbeing. After all the emotional shock of a second shop raid in my 6 months in the UK, still in my tiny room, I finally found calm as my thoughts concerning how close I had come to losing my machines and gear drifted away as the Dragon lay me down into the gentlest of slumbers.
The next day I woke early and packed up all my things, everything scattered in my tiny room in my elderly roommate’s council flat. I kissed her goodbye and said I would be back after Scotland to say goodbye. I drug my things into an Uber to the station then took the train to where Violet was house sitting near Kings Cross, which was only a five-minute commute to the shop that had left me jobless yet again. If things went according to plan, I would have worked my final weeks in luxury, avoiding the 90-minute journey and the handful of transfers twice each day. My original plan was to work through my last day and the following morning we were to jam to Scotland, a little less than two weeks that Violet and I would stay together in a small flat overlooking the Kings Cross Canal. I arrived to a comfortable, modern little flat to find Violet cooking dinner. I was in a bit of a void, eyes glazed over, just enough Dragon to prop me upright mixed with Ritalin and valium, in a haze of how to make all the frantic preparation descending on me click into place so I could survive beyond the UK.
My anxiety at this point was through the roof with everything swirling in my hurricane of chaos, the planning I was doing, the frustration over my lost jobs, my lack of money or means to make it, the idea of looking for a second job after my two weeks were finished in A’dam. At the same time, deep down I was starting to feel the excitement start to boil within me, that tingling sensation knowing something completely new and unknown was just around the corner where I could be free of the UK and the misfortunes that had found me this time around. Violet was officially moving to the USA with a formal job offer through one of the film studios. I imagined she would be there a long time once the visa people made her jump though all the ridiculous hoops and eventually beat her to a pulp with their bureaucratic insanity. I was sure she would be working in the pictures Stateside, she had powerful people going to bat for her and I could see her big break start to shine through the fog of the future. As far as I was concerned, I was still frustrated she didn’t really understand that I would be gone from her life for possibly years. At this point, I was mentally preparing myself for the heartbreak. I was too concerned with her emotional well-being to end it myself, so I would have to wait for her to find someone new once she was in America and for the memory of me to finally start to dim and the cracks finally show.
I was out of money, I couldn’t find a place to stay while in Amsterdam, my parents would be visiting as well to meet me, my Father would be in Norway fly-fishing and transiting through A’dam right as I would be finishing up my commitment to cover shifts at the shop. My mother decided to make a trip over as well, knowing somewhere deep down, as we all did, that its always worth it as it could be our last. We agreed to split accommodation rather than have them stay in a hotel while I stayed in a broom closet, so with a much more realistic budget, I continued the hunt for a place to stay for 30 days now. While trying to sort out Holland, the last of my commitments were wearing me thin as my time in the UK drew to a close. Playing house with Violet was pushing me over the edge a bit, neither of us were working and other than a few errands she would run during the day my precious time alone to work and freely enjoy my solitude had been cut to virtually none. We had a couple amazing evenings watching films and her dressing in wild outfits and sexually pouncing on me at night and again in the morning, the woman has a sex drive like a 13-year-old boy. I had successfully recovered my tattoo gear with an Uber over to Liz’s flat where I found almost everything in perfect order, minus a couple minor things that were easily replaceable. I was planning Scotland half-heartedly at this point, knowing that in no way could I afford it, and Violet, even with promises that she could float most of the bill, I was concerned that her new job opportunity the uncertainty involved with how long the paperwork would take and the costs of moving across the ocean I knew our getaway was becoming unrealistic.
I haven’t been in that playing house cage for a very long time and found it strange and unfamiliar while being frightening as to what the future could hold once I complete all these lofty goals, a “real life” the idea of it feels like hell. I continually found myself imagining ways to escape that cage, not necessarily Violet but just being thrust into each detail of another person while sharing space together. Eventually, my anxiety completely took over and my thoughts abandoned all reason. I was staying up too late into the mornings obsessively trading crypto currency to try and make some fast money, and even fueled by drugs and anxiety I managed to take some big risks and after a couple days of patience, was able to profit on some swing trades, about £600, money that I was acutely aware should have been set aside for accommodation in Amsterdam. The fact that Violet was leaving for the States was weighing on me too, wounds from the past I thought long healed were opening and abandonment issues were coming to the surface from girls from my youth and all the scattered pieces of my heart strewn around the different parts of the world. The reality was, I was in fear of losing her, fearful of the future. As far as my feelings for Violet, I was unsure that a future with her would be possible, and deep down I knew the highly probably and all too familiar sting of watching the shimmer of my charm flicker away and eventually finding myself unable to hold her affections any longer. I was unable to balance that fear and silently and frequently called myself out as a fucking coward. I needed to remind myself of where my heart was taking me, what the mission was, all I had sacrificed over the years to maintain my vision and its evolution, how one day all this could mean something. If Violet was another sacrifice that was necessary, then I would have to come to terms with it and carry on. During our time playing house, I started to taper the Dragons grip over a couple days and although I was planning to quit once my back was finished; somehow, I had 20 more in the post. Ordered by my mischievous double who would frequently evade my willpower to make poor decisions while the Dragon would pour honey in his ear, whispering all the wonderfully convincing lullabies about how the withdrawals hadn’t taken hold yet, how I should never be a prisoner of sobriety and especially how much more capable and brilliant I would be once I was again dancing and entwined with my old friend the Dragon.
It was a summers evening. The sheer window curtains blew in a cool breeze that carried the fresh smell of water from the canal below. It was hot outside and the way the flat was sitting on the 6thfloor within the horseshoe shaped complex the afternoons were cool and comfortable with the windows open. The morning had already whirled by as Violet and I had our tea and a breakfast of eggs, raw spinach and a crumpet or two. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was doubling my Ritalin to make up for what I was lacking in opioids trying to stay awake and not really taking any Valium. That afternoon, as the sun began to set I was wound up so tight I had chased my anxieties down the rabbit hole of all the uncertain moments and events, past and future that were distorting my present. Violet and I had a small disagreement, that disagreement was repeated back to me misshapen and twisted into a meaning that I clearly did not intend; and the tension rose, my heart began to race and the disagreement transformed into an argument about how we were arguing. Eventually, Violet said something, I don’t specifically recall what, but it set me off like a roman candle. Another twist of the reality of my words, bending the truth of whatever we were talking about so that she could appear to be in the right and me the villain. What started so simply, thrashed and reared its head until I realized I was far from my usual calm and dignity I can display during conflict. My voice was raised and I was angry, at her, angry at the situation I had found myself in, angry that after all the hard work and design I couldn’t seem to hold the plan together and I just started to lose my temper. I told her off for the blatant manipulation and her twisting my intent as the argument further mutated as I began my own blatant twisting and foul logic to combat hers until her point and the entire argument was misshapen while I fired rapid examples of how much better I could be at the little game she was playing until, she just couldn’t keep up with the wild mess of manipulative word games and my increasingly sharp tone. I had her dangling from my spider’s web until she couldn’t discern which way was up. Looking back, I was executing a plan of escape. To avoid the heartache that was coming, I was aware at the time and even while speaking cruel words; in that moment I was doing it all reluctantly. I needed to go, I wanted to stay, I knew she would eventually grow tired of my rambling. My blood was boiling and finally she snapped back with what felt like a good enough excuse for me to say fuck you, so I did. “Fuck, you Violet.” Immediately, I recklessly packed my shit to leave. I told her we were finished and it's better it happens now than in a more complicated future. Then, like a true actress, she flung herself on the bed and started to cry. Once I realized my intent and the reason for the disagreements escalation I felt guilty for clearly doing something I didn’t aim to, something I was unsure of. If there’s anything I’m capable of its burning a bridge, and I guess in hindsight, I didn’t fire this one so badly it couldn’t be crossed again, maybe it was my unsure heart holding back the last of the kerosene, maybe I was holding back from hurting her further. After a few moments of gathering and packing my few scattered belongings and jumping on my suitcase to get it to clasp; collecting my tattoo kit and stacking outside the flat door, I unceremoniously walked out as she asked “how can you just do this, let us end like this?” I replied softly, “It’s all I know” and out I went like a fucking country song. In the elevator I was further driven to outrage that after all the fucking trains, money and effort to get my things and myself to central London to play house and have an easy commute to the job that no longer existed, again I was ferrying stacks my bags to where they were only a few days prior. The damage the journey would do to my body and the draining of my will to endure the nearly 2-hour trip south was a dreadful thought. It was peak travel while I dragged all my worldly possessions through various London stations and trains, balancing my cases awkwardly while weaving through the mad rush of people getting off of work. I navigated my way south as my Oyster card drained the last of its transport credit. Once I arrived I tried to let it all go. The Dragon sat in its neat little express envelope waiting for me. I insufflated a Valium and 40mg of my old friend and the fog of the drama of the week only grew thicker as the drugs began to take hold. I started to cry at first and lamented over all the lives I could have led and futures that will never come to pass. I felt pity for myself about the events that took place over the last 6 months, the events of just the last week. Then, as quickly as I was in that fog of pathetic wallowing self-pity, the drugs took hold and all was right with Edmond, it dulled the guilt, the tension in my shoulders dissipated, my mind raced into new realms of creativity, but still a dull remnant of guilt hung there immersed in the euphoria and mind erasing effects of the Valium leaving me sleepless until the first light of morning.
Once I did some Ritalin and woke myself up with a cup of tea, I reflected, I felt I had done what was right, that in the end, both of us would avoid the inevitable crash landing that was coming. Sometime around mid-day I got a message on Instagram from my client that was scheduled to finish his sleeve and suddenly my financial outlook changed, I arranged to tattoo at the shop immigration raided months before, agreeing to sneak in towards the end of working hours. Once there I nervously spent the next 6 hours smashing out the second half of the Polynesian sleeve while nervously looking over my shoulder in fear, although unlikely I was worried somehow, I would get caught. The owner, knowing my woes let me keep 100% and suddenly I had £450 in my pocket and figured to hell with it, I’ll head to Scotland alone and check that last box of things I aimed to accomplish in the UK. I came to the conclusion that since any future entry into the country was uncertain with immigration on my trail, I would head straight to my favorite whisky distillery in the Highlands, Glendronach and then book a ferry for Holland and put Violet and the UK behind me for the foreseeable future.