My T-shirt: A Quest is Born

(Note: This is a continuation of the My Shirt narrative. The events below took place in 2005. To read the narrative in its entirety to date GO HERE.)

From our tiny apartment, I continued to weave the tales of my travels and try to sell them. I was published on a website which paid me $20 and then the Raleigh News & Observer published a story I wrote about spending the night in Castle Dracula in Romania. I was giddy. I got paid $150.

I have made less than $300 writing.

I want a career as a writer. Annie wants a commitment. We’re doomed.

We’ve lived in this apartment for a year and a half. Annie has decided she doesn’t want to be a nanny anymore and is going to move back home. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I guess I’ll move back home too.

The bathroom is a sauna. I stare down at the floor. Tattoo from the early 80’s TV-hit, Fantasy Island, smiles up at me from my T-shirt that sits atop the pile of clothes at my feet. It’s my favorite T-shirt. I wear it more than I should, often smelling it before putting it on. Annie thinks that’s kind of gross, but it’s something you get in the habit of doing when you travel a lot and have to do laundry by hand.

Tattoos eyes sparkle with mischief; his smile is too wide for his small head; his comb-over is perfect. “COME WITH ME TO MY,” hangs over his head and “TROPICAL PARADISE,” sits just beneath his dimpled chin.

My cousin Brice bought it for me when I lived in Key West. People that remember Fantasy Island and Tattoo’s catchphrase “Da plane…Da Plane,” get a big kick out of my shirt. A bit of Nostalgia, a dash of light-hearted humor, it’s a perfect T-shirt. But the life of Herve Villechaize was quite tragic.

Herve was a dwarf. Ridiculed throughout school in France, he moved to the USA to pursue a career in the arts. While living in New York City he worked as an artist and painter before turning to acting. His breakout roll was as Nick Nack in the James Bond film Man with the Golden Gun, which led to a roll as Tattoo in Fantasy Island. Destined to forever be a sidekick, Herve wanted to be paid the same as FI star Ricardo Montablan. The producers wouldn’t and he left the show. He turned to alcohol and killed himself at the age of 50.

But all of that is easy to forget while looking at his smiling face and the text beckoning me to follow him.

I pick up the shirt.

“Tattoo, where is this tropical paradise of yours?”

I look at the tag: MADE IN HONDURAS.

Call it the birth of a quest or a crazy escape plan from the rural Ohio lifestyle that waits, but something clicks – as long as I keep moving, reality can’t catch me.

I get in the shower and, for the first time in a long time, start to whistle.

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