Tattoos and consequences

One of the reasons I have eleven tattoos is my need to remind myself that behavior can have irreversible consequences. It was a time when I seemed headed for serious trouble. The first tattoos were an attempt to right myself; the others reminders that I wasn’t out of the woods.
A few months after Aubade was first published in 1957 I received a letter in an airmail envelope forwarded from my publisher’s office, addressed to “Kenneth Martin, Author of Summer Holiday.” The enclosed letter from a U.S. fan, though it didn’t mention a book title again, was about Aubade, months before the U.S. edition was published. It seemed the British edition was being sold under a different title, probably under plain cover by mail or in big city dirty bookstores. (I once asked the proprietress of one of these London holes in the wall in the Charing Cross Road, where Aubade was displayed prominently along with heterosexual porn, how it was selling. She was wary about my motives, so I plucked up the gall to tell her I’d written it. “How could you write a book like that?” she asked, eyes bulging righteously.)
I showed the letter to my agent Julian Jebb, and he pointed out that it didn’t mention “Summer Holiday.” “Would you like to see the envelope?” I asked. “Yes,” he said. I admitted that I’d thrown away the envelope. I’m not sure he believed me, though he told my publisher, who said I must be the first author to be pirated across the Atlantic since Dickens. (The firm had been Dickens’s first publishers.)
I’m not sure Julian believed much of what I told him, including the story of my secret adoption which I’d just uncovered. “Kenneth, is this true?” I remember him asking more than once. Maybe he thought I wanted attention. The publicity over Aubade in England had died down, and I’d realized how little impact my book, or a half-page newspaper feature about my split personality, accompanied by a double exposure photo, had on the memory or even initial attention of the great British public. (Even though I gave good copy.)
I should have kept the envelope, documentary evidence that I wasn’t lying. Why didn’t I? I’ve always had a blithely indifferent disregard for cause and effect, consequences. And “You don’t care what people think” I still hear time and time again. Well, I think I do, but apparently not as much as most people. Perhaps because there have been plenty of times when I couldn‘t afford to care what people thought. Evidence has built up that my luck is terrible, that time after time a chain of unlikely coincidences will ensure that I’ll be found out in every evasion or lie. But I never learned. Which is why, at an advanced age, and even when the stakes are great, I need help reminding myself that behavior has consequences.

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