Rachel is a petite, tattoo-covered, dimple-pierced artist, and I'm paying her to hurt me because I want a tattoo.

Before today, Rachel and I have spoken a couple of times about what I want and what my fears are. Standing in her workspace now, I explain to her again that although I have a phobia of needles and will probably cry at some point, I definitely want this tattoo.  But I am nervous.

Rachel nods, looks at me gravely and says in a very serious voice, "I'm going to do whatever I need to do to get this tattoo done today."

Okay, I am now, officially, a little afraid of her.

She applies the image transfer (I'm getting a modified jolly roger) and then instructs me to hop up on the table.

Rachel loads the ink into the tattoo gun and turns it on. She asks if I'm ready. This is my last opportunity to turn back. Derik, my partner-in-crime and official hand-holder, smiles at me encouragingly. I take a deep breath and answer affirmatively. Rachel begins the tattoo. 

I anticipated pain. I know it's going to hurt a little, but I'm pretty sure I can take it. This isn't my first tattoo; I had a small image tattooed on my breast a mere ten years before. It hardly hurt at all after the first five minutes or so. This tattoo will be in a more sensitive location, so I assume I will wince a lot, maybe even whimper if it gets really intense.

I have completely underestimated the searing, unrelenting torment I am about to be put through.

Let me say this: the tool they use should not be called a "tattoo gun." The term "gun" implies that the coming pain will be quick. It is Decidedly Not Quick. In fact, I'm pretty sure the brand name on Rachel's tattoo "gun" is Agonizingly Slow and Satanically Evil Tattoo Gun.

The very first contact between tattoo gun and my unsuspecting flesh is immediately at the top level of what I expect to experience pain-wise. I am pretty sure this isn't a good sign since I know she is starting with an easy part to "ease me in." But, hey, I'm a stubborn girl; I came in here to get a tattoo and, come hell or high water, I'm getting that tattoo! I close my eyes and bite my lip. I can do this.

I swear it feels like she is carving into my skin with a white-hot machete, sawing it back and forth. I do not cry though; I'm afraid the physical movement involved in hysterical sobbing will cause the tattoo gun to veer off-course and there simply isn't enough room in the area for that to not have tragic results.

Rachel keeps reminding me to breathe. I try to comply. I cautiously take a breath. I nearly die from pain. I quickly realize she is crazy and that breathing is overrated. I wonder aloud if I can pay her extra to finish the tattoo on my unconscious body after I faint from not breathing.

She says no. Apparently, that is frowned upon in the tattoo industry.

So I breathe. Most of the time. Well, every time Rachel or Derik remind me to, which is about every five minutes or so. I am impressed with my newly-discovered lung capacity.

After what seems like a week, Rachel cheerfully announces that the whole thing is going much faster than she thought it would: we're one-third done. For the record, I do not find this to be an example of "happy math."   Where the hell is my endorphin and adrenaline rush? Because I really need that shit to kick in now.

At this point, I have mostly lost the ability to speak coherently and am, instead, devoting that energy to not screaming so shrilly that all ears in a three-mile radius begin to bleed. The rest of this tattooing experience can best be shared through the artist's comments as she works on my tattoo. I will also share my internal responses to her comments.

This is going really fast; the forehead is done!

            Fast. Good. Whimper.

One more cross bone.

            Okay. Yes.

You're doing great! It's going really well.

            I am so brave and tough. Rawr.

Another crossbone down.

            Hurray, the crossbones are done! They hurt the most.

Do you need a break? I think you need a break.

            I don't need a break. We're almost done.


            Okay, yeah, I need a break.

This is going to feel like I'm scraping at you with a razor blade.

            Great; that should be an improvement.

One more cross bone to go.

            Wait. What? How many crossbones are there on a jolly roger?

That was the hardest part.

            No shit.

Let's work on the tooth now.

What tooth? I don't remember a tooth! Seriously, what freaking tooth are you talking about?

We're almost done. Just one more crossbone.


And we're done!


I eventually sit up. I am lightheaded, but the most intense pain is already subsiding, quickly fading from memory like a dream. I check out my new tattoo in the mirror, relieved to see it has the normal two crossbones and not five, as I've been lead to believe.

I am ecstatic! It's cute and darkly humorous and suits me perfectly. I have been transformed by ink. I am seriously badass.

Trust me; I have a badass tattoo to prove it.

- Rising Moon Bishop



Rachel & Her Gun

Icon Tattoo and Body Piercing






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