We bounced up to the door. My friend roommate housemate sister person Tricia reached for the door and pulled. I laughed as she crumpled her face in a comical mask that looked like a cross between a frustrated baby and genuine smile. “You’ve done that like three times now!” I exclaimed loudly. Outside Body Matrix for the third time this week Tricia had yet again reached for the door that was perpetually locked. The “Use Other Door” sign should have tipped her off even if she hadn’t already failed to enter the building through this same door, twice. But we were both excited and it could have just as easily have been me to pull back on the door that would never open. We had been planning this day for over a year. It’s an important decision, where to lay the ink on your body. You only get one lovely skin canvas and they don’t make erasers for these kinds of things. Tricia had wanted to get one for a long time. “When I am afraid I will trust in thee” were the words she had quoted to me when I asked what she would like.
We didn’t start talking about it seriously until I came home with my fresh tattoo. I had wanted one for years as well but never knew what I really wanted to say or show so much that I would emblazon it upon my arm for the whole world to see. It took something big to push me over the metaphoric cliff of wanting, to the free fall freedom of doing. When you lose your father all you really want is him back. When that’s not an option you just want to remember him forever. “You are the one for me” was something he always said to my mother and us kids. The words came easy enough, but then it was umpteenth month long process of where to put it and fonts and photo shopping it onto my body in various different pictures at different angles and locations. When the time came I got pumped up, took my sister and my best friend, hopped onto the chair and braced myself. To my delighted surprise it barely hurt at all. And that is exactly what I was hoping for Tricia.
She was nervous. In all fairness a stranger was about to stick a needle into her back hundreds of times to produce the words she had chosen, I was nervous when it was me too. We got over the locked door episode and continued inside, as giddy as all those bimbos who get Really excited about chocolate milk or pretty note cards that we hate. We presented ourselves to the receptionist and announced that we had an appointment. A short wait and a few happy yet tense moments later and we ventured into the room of transformation. Fully aware that I was going to be doing a photo essay on the event, I started to scope out the room. Where could I stand to get the best shoots? When did I want to take them? Should I ask the artist? Yes. Don’t upset the man holding the cosmetic future of Tricia’s back in his hands. After I obtained permission and received instructions (Don’t block the light and don’t get too close) I fired up the camera and embraced the smart phone photographer deep within.
However important I deemed my homework to be my main duty in the tattoo parlor was to my friend. I stood by her and became a coat hanger as she slipped off her shirt and undershirt to sit in the leather chair in a swimsuit top and jeans.
“Gotta bring you down a bit” observed the artist while depressing the foot lever to lower the chair.
“I never hear that I’m to tall!” Tricia and I, still completely giddy and adrenaline pumped about what was about to occur laugh way to loud about her 5 foot 4 inch stature and the delightful irony of the situation.
All the prep had come and gone by this point. Alcohol wipes and script stencil had been applied, photo documented and only continued to add to the anticipation. Spinning around in circles on the wheeled stool that was my observation throne I watched Tricia as she passed my vision along with the rest of the room in each cycle of my marry-go-round. Neither of us could stop laughing as the moment of “first ink” came ever closer. Finally, and all to quickly, the time came.
“You ready?” He asked in an amused voice. Such a trooper for not only tolerating us but being relaxed enough to allow himself to enjoy our craziness. Tricia looked at me with whimsical fear in her eyes. I abandoned my own spinning whimsy seat to walk over and join hers. I reached out my hand and clasped onto hers just before the initial piercing. I was allowed to do this now. She’s not an easy person to get as close to as we now are. Understand that this is not me bragging, it’s nothing to brag about because I didn’t even have to try. A new sister was given to me in the form of a terrible situation.
Her ex-boyfriend Byron had been living with us and our other roommates not too long ago. College is stressful and a defining moment for people and relationships and theirs was torn open by circumstances and differences that could not be compromised were revealed. It’s an awkward thing when people that are living together breakup. It’s more awkward when other people are also living with them both. It becomes even more awkward when the man begins yelling and fighting for hours trying to “work it out” when everyone in that house can see there’s nothing to work out. It becomes more than awkward when he states throwing and kicking things because things are not going his way. Me and Tricia moved out for a couple of weeks and lived on a friend’s floor. Byron threatened me and I didn’t want to be there anyway. But more than that I wanted to be there with Tricia. We ate together. We vented together. We got homesick for our own beds together. When the time came we dealt with him together. When you go through that with someone there is a new level of understanding and affection that you come out with on the other side. Anyone who has ever been a protective friend of someone who has an abusive boyfriend(whether it be verbal or physical) knows how I feel about this girl now.
After we got Byron out of the house and our lives forever she changed what she wanted to have inscribed on to her back. She had me listen to an Angles and Airwaves song one day. These were the lyrics she’d picked out.
If you wish it, wish it now
If you want it, say it loud
We all make mistakes
Here’s your lifeline
I couldn’t have thought of a more perfect phrase. Mainly I just try not to think about the days when Byron was still here and the house was full of heavy fear and screaming voices. But when I do think of that time, I have to thank God that she got out. This is a second chance that some people don’t get. Some people end up in these situations for their entire lives. But she got out. She got her lifeline.
As I stood there holding her hand before the pain I thought of doing this once before, albeit in a strongly metaphoric way. I will always try to be there for the pain when she needs me. But as the artist began to carve out the mantra into her shell her hand loosened and her face lit up.
“That’s it?! That doesn’t hurt at all!” she announced joyously.
People say the truth hurts, but I say that it doesn’t always have to. Sometimes something is just so right it doesn’t hurt to say it to the world or write it on your skin. Some people also don’t’ care what they put on their body. Sometimes a tattoo doesn’t mean anything more than it’s pretty, funny, cute, or offensive. That’s fine too. But, in my opinion it should mean something. At the very least your first. This is your first ink and you only get it once. What are you going to say?