Messy, Fleshy Hero Worship


He appears to be sweating, as if in an infrared sauna or facing the heat of public and legal scrutiny for one’s actions. A look of uneasy defiance holds on his face. The hat he’s contractually obligated to wear stays glued to his head even in a permanent moment like this, its logo Kilroy-ing at the lip of the brim. It’s an unflattering visage etched into the flesh of a willing stranger.

Now each time said stranger walks, the muscle of their left thigh will shake, jostling the detailed portrait tattoo of professional skateboarder Nyjah Huston up, down, to this side, that side. When the stranger pulls down their board shorts to sit on the toilet, they’ll have company. In the hot, breathy moments that tease towards intimacy with a new lover, there will now have to be the reveal of a third. Huston might be telling the story of the tattoo right now at one of his superspreader events, guests pulling into a tight circle around the glowing porthole of his Instagram profile.

“GOD DAMNNNN HOMIE WENT IN!!!” Huston exclaimed online after seeing photos of the stranger’s commitment to him. He appreciates the stranger for putting his clammy face onto their person indefinitely.

“THIS GOTTA BE THE MOST DEDICATED THING I’VE EVER SEEN SOMEONE DO FOR ME..” He continued—and there’s sincerity in that statement. The more you read it, right up to the stunted ellipses, the more you pick up on a certain poignant note. The lament of a man with everything but someone who would sacrifice their body for the version of Huston he haphazardly curates and presents to the world online. Perhaps the comment is even a passive-aggressive jab at those circled around him. See what this random guy from the internet would do for me...

It takes a special type of adoration and dedication to celebrity to get the image of one stabbed into yourself. To have their body on your body must speak to deeper meaning beyond what you’ve seen of them on screen. Is Huston interested in learning what value he may have added to this stranger’s life and why his face turned up in the meat of their leg? Will Huston earn a photo-incentive from the Monster Energy Drink logo that’ll show itself each time the stranger drops trou for a stunned crowd who’ll share the tattoo on their own social media profiles?

This bodily choice isn’t an isolated occurrence by any means. Hero worship like this is ingrained in us. A wobbly pedestal where we plop those of any semblance of repute. What would Johnny Cash think of having his swollen, almost unrecognizable face on the bicep of mixed martial artist Alan Belcher?

Cash’s face stretched with Belcher over the years as he grew bigger, stronger. Each dumbbell curl testing the limits of the Man in Black’s form. Cash was there when Belcher won fights spectacularly and sat front row to his dramatic defeats. He put Cash onto the arm that helped him concuss and strangle opponents, sending them down, down, down. The two are now together, always. Cash’s life intertwined, at least superficially, with his own. However, it’s an asymmetrical relationship. Belcher’s adoration doesn’t affect the late Cash's memory, but it does reflect on Belcher. His choice of tattoo a sign of the character he’s willing to identify with. Thankfully for those like Belcher, the dead usually have trouble adding extra dirt to their legacies, making the regret of getting their face tattooed onto your body mostly due to artistic craftsmanship and not the subject’s continued moral failings.

The very-much-alive Huston, whose misdeeds range from alleged [CW: sexual assault] to declarative headlines, is a different story. It’s always a risky gamble to pay a tribute in flesh to someone with so much time left to stack wrongdoings. Like an early fan of The Usual Suspects getting a “Keyser Söze” tattoo—a decision made with a countdown clock. At what point will the stranger have to start wearing jeans to the beach?

Does this matter to Huston? Is that why he called the stranger’s actions “insane”? The shorted ellipses a moment of pause. A realization of some sort. That the art on the stranger’s skin will turn against him in due time—if it hasn’t already. The uneasy face in ink an impressive likeness of the maskless man grinding down handrails all over Southern California.