An ode to bowling and temporary tattoos.
Words by Moira Ness & photos by Moira Ness
I had an encounter with a woman in Dutchess County, NY. I think that Columbia County would be more geographically accurate, but for some reason I associate my time spent in Upstate with Dutchess. One night she and I drove over to Catskill (definitely in Columbia County) to the rundown bowling alley, Hoebowl. She gave me a few dollar bills and told me, like a child, to go buy some dragon temporary tattoos from the vending machine at the other end of the alley. I chatted with the cashier at the shoe counter as he made change for me. The machine only accepted quarters. While I was gone she texted the 50-something she was involved with, the one I called Mr. Metallic Pumpkin.
When it was my turn to bowl, I awkwardly tossed the bowling ball and would then spin around to face her, in hopes of a reaction. Most times she would be on her phone and wouldn’t look up, but every other turn or so I would look to see her taking photos of me with her cell phone. I often wonder if those photos of me still exist somewhere. I also wonder if she was merely taking a selfie and no photos of me ever existed for her.
We went to the bathroom and held damp paper towels on our arms to transfer the tattoos. I was taking photos of our arms and my cell phone started playing the last song I had paused on shuffle. She heard the music and smiled and asked, coyly, if I was trying to set the mood. Not with Coldplay, I said. I left Upstate a few days later.
A few months passed and we met up for dinner when I drove through Dutchess County on my way south. She ordered shishito peppers to start, the house burger, and a few martinis, dry, dry, dry. I wasn’t hungry. We talked about the farm and the Jeep. The new guy she really cared about. The old guy she still cared about. She winked at me, like she always used to, but this time it was slow and almost jittery. I looked at her with squinted eyes, exasperated, eyebrows merging with Darwin’s grief muscle. We both knew it felt wrong.
The next morning she told me I could stay at the farm for a few nights, whatever I needed, but that she had to go back to NYC that afternoon. I watched as the Jeep peeled out of the driveway. I packed my car and left her some writing in her room. I couldn’t physically stay.