is a petite, tattoo-covered, dimple-pierced artist,
and I'm paying her to hurt me because I want a tattoo.
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.
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."
I am now, officially, a little afraid of her.
applies the image transfer (I'm getting a modified
jolly roger) and then instructs me to hop up on the
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
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
have completely underestimated the searing, unrelenting
torment I am about to be put through.
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.
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.
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.
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.
says no. Apparently, that is frowned upon in the tattoo
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
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.
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.
is going really fast; the forehead is done!
Fast. Good. Whimper.
more cross bone.
doing great! It's going really well.
I am so brave and tough. Rawr.
Hurray, the crossbones are done! They hurt the most.
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.
is going to feel like I'm scraping at you with a razor
Great; that should be an improvement.
more cross bone to go.
Wait. What? How many crossbones are there on a jolly
was the hardest part.
work on the tooth now.
tooth? I don't remember a tooth! Seriously, what
freaking tooth are you talking about?
almost done. Just one more crossbone.
MY GOD! WHAT KIND OF CRAZY, WARPED JOLLY ROGER ARE
YOU TATTOOING ON ME, YOU EVIL, SADISTIC WOMAN?!?
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.
am ecstatic! It's cute and darkly humorous and suits
me perfectly. I have been transformed by ink. I am
me; I have a badass tattoo to prove it.
Rising Moon Bishop