I don’t know what it was about the world around me, but it had all grown so bland. You’d think that at eighteen, I’d be just starting to experience all it had to offer. I don’t know if it was over-exposure or a lack of options or even just a general disinterest, but the world simply was not appealing to me. I was desperate to try anything and everything once, in case something came along and saved me from the dullness I experienced daily. I had experienced so much in my mind, but not enough I realized. The things I had experienced were not things I would want to tell to future generations.
Maybe that’s why I pulled into the parking lot that I did. I wasn’t sure what I was doing until I went inside. “What can we do for ya?” a man with a clean-shaved scalp, leather vest and protruding belly asked. I looked at him for a moment processing what my body was forcing me to do.
“I want a tattoo,” I answered with a steady gaze.
“You got a design ready?” he asked expectantly.
“Huh-uh.” He raised an eyebrow at me. I looked at the walls and saw signs giving deposit prices for tattoo designs and roughly how long the design would take in days to be finished. I couldn’t leave. I might not come back. “I mean, I planned to get a quote so I don’t really need a design, right?” I asked, recovering.
He nodded, I had given an acceptable answer. “How big and what style?” he prompted.
I held up my fingers, an inch apart from one another and added, “Some sort of script.”
“Uh huh,” he nodded to the computer for me to search scripts in their database until I found one I liked. He was writing down the description I had given him onto a sort of paper receipt and asked me for the quote.
I faltered. Not something from a book or a movie or a song I would grow to hate. No, something else. I scrolled through scripts until I found one and typed my answer before reading it aloud to him. “The world owes me nothing.”
What a strange concept. To permanently ink something onto myself in a hasty decision because I wanted to feel excited or nervous or anything and to have it say that I am not obligated to the experience.
I was thinking so deeply about this that I didn’t realize I had been guided the other side of the open parlor and inks and needles and gloves were being prepared.
“Where did you want to get this?” a new artist was asking as he set up. He traced the printed quote on some type of paper with blue ink and tranferred it to my skin, making a violet ghost image for the design. I nodded in approval at the design.
“Where’s a sensitive spot?” I asked him in place of an answer.
“Uh, rib, knee, inner elbow?” he listed
“Rib,” I decided. I didn’t need anyone to know until I wanted them to.
“You some kind of masochist?” he joked with a grin. I shook my head. He paused. “Hey, are you okay? Are you sure you wanna do this? It seems pretty sudden,” he worried.
“No, yeah, I’m sure. Let’s do it,” I nodded. I laid back and rolled my shirt up so he could start when he was ready.
“Last chance,” he offered, hesitating with the needle above me.
“I’m ready,” I promised. And I was.
Looking back, I liked to think that I slapped down one-fifty for a permanent reminder and a chance to feel something. But there was no writing or wincing. I wanted to know if I could still feel and all I felt were strong vibrations against my bones. It’s an odd and uncomfortable feeling but “painful” is not a word I’d use to describe it. I was sore an hour or so after the ink set in, don’t get me wrong, but there was no pain during the process. Maybe my body didn’t react to this kind of pain any longer. No, I was over-thinking. Perhaps my ribs were too meaty. Or maybe my adrenaline was too high to feel it? Or even my pain tolerance for that matter. I don’t know, I’m not expert. I just know that I was disappointed.
In any case, my adventure that day was a perfect metaphor for my life. I never felt pain during, only the soreness it caused after. It’s easy for me to see how I got to this point knowing that. But then again, hindsight is 20/20, right?