Three A.M. High

By Nicole E. Woolaston

There’s a certain element of New York City that can only be seen between the hours of one and about five a.m.  The deeper into the city you go, the more interesting the crowd becomes. Around 42nd Street used to be a hellhole: sex shops, prostitutes (both male and female), twenty-four-hour DVD stores. Then Mayor Edward Koch cleaned it up. Now, it’s just another tourist trap.

I found myself wandering around the Village around a quarter to three. There were a lot of young people out; college kids with no place in particular to be. And tourists….you can spot the tourists. They’ve got “from out of town” written all over them. They just look out of place. Sometimes I think about going up to one of them and asking them what the hell they’re doing out in the city at such a late hour? Are they completely unaware of how dangerous the city can be, especially to one who doesn’t know anything about it? It was the same way, when I went to City College. You could always tell, which students were from New York, and which ones were from Montana or some damn where.

I moved past all of the tourists and college kids, and entered a tattoo parlor. I knew the guy at the front counter: a burly guy named Jerry. He nodded his head when he saw me. “Hey, man,” he said. “What’s up?”

“Not much,” I said. “I was wondering if you could work on my tattoo?”

“Sure,” Jerry said. “Your wife’s middle name, right?”

I nodded. “Yeah, I wanted you to fill in the letters.”

Jerry gestured for me to follow him towards the back of the parlor. Another one of his artists emerged from behind a curtain, and nodded towards me as he walked past. I turned in time to see him walk behind the front counter and stand.

I took a seat in Jerry’s chair, and sat back. Jerry got all of his tools in order, and pulled out a small, yellow cigar box. I’ve seen this cigar box many times before. It’s where Jerry keeps his “good shit”. He removed the contents: a dime bag and some rolling papers. As he carefully rolled a joint, he looked up at me, and asked, “You want?”

Of course I want. “Sure, man,” I said.  He passed the joint to me, and dug into his pocket and pulled out a lighter. He lit it for me, and I took a drag, and leaned my head back. I rolled up my sleeve, and exposed my half-completed tattoo of “Delcina Marie”. Weed and ink are my new things.

Jerry went to work, and I tried to pretend that needle he was using to fill I the letters didn’t hurt like a mother fucker. The weed helped a little…a little. It’s one of those pains that won’t kill you, but it hurts just enough for you to acknowledge its happening. Like a minor toothache. You may not need to see a dentist yet, but the pain is there.

Jerry asked me how my band was doing. I told him, we weren’t doing anything at the moment.

“What’s the matter?” Jerry asked. “Writer’s block or something?”

“Yeah, you could say that,” I said, taking another puff. “Nick is the one who writes most of our songs, and he’s been having some trouble lately. We’ve all got shit to deal with. I found out my father isn’t really my father.”

Jerry paused, and looked up at me. “Say what?”

I forced a smile. “Yeah, man,” I said. “It’s complicated, but it explains a lot of things, you know?” I took another puff. “My whole life, my father treated me like shit, and now I finally know why. I’m not his son.”

“Wow,” Jerry said. “That’s heavy, man. That’s really heavy. You okay?”

“I’m getting there,” I said.

Jerry finished my tattoo, gave me some A&D ointment, and covered my arm with gauze. He does really good work. I shook his hand, and told him I’d probably be back again for something else. I had already finished my joint about an hour ago. I walked out of the parlor, onto the street, and looked around. There were even less people out now. I knew if I walked to Astor Place or Union Square, things would be busy. I took a deep breath, and started walking. A homeless guy stumbled up to me, and asked if I had any change. I dug into my pocket, and handed him a ten. He smiled at me, and thanked me over and over, before wandering off into the night.

I thought about my tattoo. Delcina Marie.  Dee was probably wondering where I was. At that exact moment, my cell phone rang. It was Dee, calling me as if she was telepathic. I cleared my throat and answered her call.

“Hi, honey,” Dee said, with a sigh. “Just making sure you’re still alive.”

“I’m alive, all right,” I said. “Sorry I didn’t call you sooner. I’m just walking around the city, but I think I’ve had enough, now. I’m gonna head to the subway.”

“Okay,” Dee said. “I’ll be up.”

“See you in a little while,” I said. “Bye.” I ended the call, and I knew she was pissed at me. She won’t stay pissed at me for very long, but I do shit to make her worry about me and that’s not fair to her. I’m an ass sometimes. Then again, I guess every guy is an ass.

As I headed down into the nearest subway, I decided to stop at the all-night convenience store on my way home, and pick up some gum. I’m pretty sure my breath still smells like my three a.m. high.

Nicole is an author and artist from New York. She has been writing and creating since early childhood, and is the author of four different series. Most of her work is a reflection of her interests in Japanese anime, manga, and punk rock. You can check out her website, find her on Facebook or Twitter, or email her at

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