A little more than 13 years ago, I walked into a tattoo shop, pointed at a drawing on the wall, signed a waiver, handed over my credit card, pulled down my jeans and underwear and got my first tattoo.
I brought a friend with me for support. She was the only other person my age I knew with a tattoo. I was relying on her expertise in case the pain became unbearable and/or I lost consciousness.
Luckily, none of that happened. The only mishap was an adrenaline-induced laughing fit that compromised the artist’s steady hand and, therefore, the inner circle of my blazing sun is not exactly a perfect round shape.
It didn’t bother me, though. I figured that if anyone is that close to my sun, I would be squirming around too much for them to notice.
Only, after a few years, I grew tired of my sun. Tired of having to pull down my pants (or at times, lift up my skirt) for people to notice that I had a tattoo. I started resenting it for not being loud enough. And I especially started having ill feelings toward it when I noticed it served as a warning for my menstrual cycle. To this day when the sun’s rays mysteriously stretch over my underwear line, I know it is only a matter of hours before the nasty thing descends.
I drilled my second tattoo into my lower back – the staple “tramp-stamp” patented by my generation – in the hopes that it would be seen, regardless of when I was ovulating.
I again pointed at a drawing on a wall, this time a Chinese character representing the rising of the sun. And, much like Madonna did in those years, I had reinvented myself a new version of my frontal sun. (Although, years later my Malaysian friend informed me that my ass crack was indeed adorned with the words “9:00AM” in Mandarin.)
After the first two, I subjected myself to this torture twice more. My next two tattoos were of astrological symbols and I had them carve it in my upper back, right on the bra-strap line. The last one was so bloody and painful (and actually gave me a fever that night) that I decided to give up the tattoo dream for a while. Six years to be exact.
It was one of those things I convinced myself to move on from. Like off-the-shoulder shirts and Ecstasy. I told myself that I had to outgrow that stage and move through life as a responsible adult that got stupid, stupid tattoos when I was young. But as much as I tried, the dream never really died.
For six years, I planned, thought, researched, thought, drew, sketched, thought, Googled, imagined, caved, chickened out, flipped through magazines, thought about it again and finally gave up.
Until one Sunday afternoon, two weeks ago.
On an impulse, I decided to break the dry-spell by breaking the skin on my arm. After thirty minutes of playing “guess what I’m thinking” with the artist, she went to work on my dream brand: a mysterious arrangement of pre-Latin African letters that mean absolutely nothing to anyone else, but me.
In no time, the stencil was ready and placed on the fattiest part of my inner arm. Mortified at how the letters accentuated the abundance of elasticity in my upper arm, I quickly changed its location to the skinniest part of my body – my wrist.
Trying to ignore that my primitive, African symbols looked more like the initials “U.S.A.,” I went home with my brand new body art, safely protected in Saran-wrap.
But it was no use. It made me ill. This time it wasn’t a fever. It was a terrible attack of buyer’s remorse, combined with how aesthetically unappealing those three random letters on my wrist were. Without a frame or a point of reference, it looked like I was initiated in some super-nerd gang and was branded with home-made hydrochloric acid.
I returned to the place and found my artist stitching a sleeve on some dude and recommended one of her colleagues. I was desperate, I needed something. Something to distract from these letters. Something that would pop. Something cool, like a stormy sky with lightning.
When it was all done, this is what it looked like:
And, that first night I went to sleep. Excited about the new look. Already thinking about the second and third phase of the tattoo. Until I woke up the next morning and found that I was probably looking at a fifth and sixth phase if I ever wanted to show my wrist in public again.
Instead of sizzling, it was snap, crackle, popping. And my body was eating it up like a bowl of Rice Krispies. For two weeks I’ve watched it scab and peel and fade; spewing negative comments about the artists and the shop to anyone that would listen; and thoroughly interviewing future artists that will effectively cover this crap up.
And now, on the eve of making this abomination of a tattoo disappear, I’m sad. I think I’ve developed some sort of Stockholm syndrome for it. I feel a little sorry for it. And, maybe, just maybe, a little love.
If I were to cover it up, I wouldn’t have a story. And, I think I would miss it. I would miss trying to hide my wrist behind watches and bracelets and pockets.
The thought of losing it, is making me want to keep it, salvage it, somehow.
So what if it’s a little jailhouse. So what if it is not straight. So what if it’s ugly. So what if it is visible to the outside world. It’s mine and…
Oh God, what am I saying, it’s hideous.