I know I really should post a picture, but I hate seeing pictures of tattoos before they are healed. It turned out well, a little less orange than I had wanted but it covers the original tattoo (and what you can see of the original looks simply like flickering shadows in the poppy).
( I keep talking, slow morning at work )
First a shout-out to Kohki
, my artist. One of the things that I realized I immediately liked about the owner/head artist is that I can’t actually see his tattoos when he’s all dressed. Unlike some of the other staff he doesn’t have a big fucking spider on his neck, or psychedelic skulls with shrooms on his legs. I like this restraint in an artist, this knowledge that the outside world (like parent-teacher conferences) might be more complicated if he has creatures crawling from his sleeves and drug symbols on his body. I feel like an artist who hasn’t made his body a clutter of images in every possible way will have the same respect for my body. And he’s cute.
I’d had two 3-4 hour meetings with Kohki before my tattoo day, and had actually berated him for NOT charging for this design time. An artist’s time should be worth something. We’d also talked about my life, his child, my dance (which he wants an invite to see, and he’ll get one) and I’d shown him some of my artwork. He’d been surprised at my poppy sketches so I showed him my work and explained “Yeah, I can draw, I just have a block about my tattoo. I picked you because I think you do good work, which is why I have waited almost half a year…You do good work. I want you, not some hack.”…yeah it was not unlike many ranking games, but it built respect instead of denigrating either player.
I have to admit a certain smitten quality on both of our parts, but I’d prefer a smitten impressed artist putting needles in my skin than a disinterested one. And the mutual quality of smitten kept either one of us from simply being “creepy”. It only showed in tiny moments and the odd flirting tones of our emails. The first time I was there I remember a moment, when we were sketching away on print-outs of my tattoo and back, and he stopped, drew his fingers along the curve of my photographed neck, and simply said, “ This curve…” and paused.
And when I removed my shirt for the work to begin it happened again. He stared at my back and verbally marveled at how white and unblemished my skin really is. Yup. I am that white. I’m an amazing canvas. He fixed up the covered pillows so that I could rest face-down as best I could, and gently arranged me for my tattoo. He told me to rest as he prepared.
“I’m ok, don’t worry.”
“I didn’t say anything.”
And, he hadn’t, but I’d caught him looking at me, more than once, with the same expression I’ve seen on boyfriends who pause before heading out to work as I am still in bed. Quizzical, satisfied, slightly protective, slightly marveled. Before, and on breaks, there was that look.
And then he brought the pain.
I’d remembered the pain as being not unlike a prolonged mishap with an exact-o blade. A crisp, exact pain with a certain pattern. Nothing to scream about. I didn’t know then that cover-up work is far more painful than the first time around, but I quickly realized that certain areas contained the pain I knew, and certain areas contained a deep mind-blowing buzzing of excruciation.
The sent of incense was gone . The odd, loud, new-age music designed to sooth me…gone. Pain was there, as was the buzzing. My mind and body tried to cope. Yoga breathing? Nice try. GONE! I found myself trying to will my consciousness into other parts of my body, trying to isolate muscle contractions like a good bellydancer in areas away from the gun.
My brain went something like this:
I’m breathing in and breathing PAIN! no out, no out, you can do it, OUT. And I’m not in my back I’m in my TooooooooEESSSSSS GODAMNED. I’m in my left arm, I wiggle my fingers and Fuuuuuuuuckkk…glutes. Left glute, right glute and DAMN I would crawl inside my ass if only for protection. Okay, visualize underwater. I’m underwater. SwiiimmmiBBBBZZZZZZZZZZZZ, why the FUCK don’t I recall this pain? Did I block it? How could I have mentally endured this in a nasty Harley dive? That’s a pretty pathetic memory and it is not helping. I’ve read at least one “sexy getting it on” tattoo scene as imagined by a Bust contributor, what kind of crack were they smoking? Concentrate on the music. Flowers. Flowers blooming out of my mouth, my fingers BLOODY FLOWERS ON MY BACK YOU CRAZY GODAMNED BITCH. And Fuck YOU talking clock that tells me another 15 minutes has passed! Go to the toes, to the fingers, to the outposts. Abandon the torso!!
And, with breaks of sterilizing wipes: latex fingers gently cleaning the blood that dripped into the curve of my spine and down my right arm; and two longer breaks… this went on for about 2 hours.
Eventually I pulled myself up, and pulled the pillow covers away from my sweaty torso and face. I knew I looked pale and bedraggled. I got up to look at my back, and liked what I saw, but mostly I was just happy that the buzzrocket of pain was silent. I sat, dripping with sweat, in my long black skirt and black bra, flowers blooming from my hair bun, utterly wilted.
Kohki was proud of himself, and tired. The line work had been easy to get lost in, and the original tattoo had put up a fight. He was exhausted from concentration but very proud of what he saw. I know that look of surprise when you’ve accomplished.
We talked about the pain. It was then that I was told that some of that must have really hurt. Why, yes, it did! Wilted, I was, as young Hase came in to admire and then to carefully bandage me up. Wilted, I pulled my bra strap up over my bandage and asked Kohki to help button up my shirt in the back. I promised to rest. No yoga, no dance, no drinking. I promised to send him an invite when I danced next. He handed me the detailed aftercare sheet (in Japanese, they told me that they keep meaning to translate it) and we settled up.
I didn’t rest as much as I should have. Puppy and I went to see The Black Pearl, but I did take it easy.
On Sunday, in a fit of kindness, I translated the whole aftercare sheet and sent it to Kohki because they really do need to have an English copy (the website is in English and thus they get a few customers who speak no Japanese) and received back this message:
THANK YOU SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO MUCH!!!!!!
THANK YOU. THANK YOU.THANK YOU.
And now I heal. I remember this phase. I feel like I have a huge thin scab, and, indeed, I pretty much do.