He gruffly asked the reason why, sitting behind the desk looking over the designs I gave him to consider.
"It has meaning to me," I said boldly in spite of his half-sneer and the devil tattooed over his neck.
I guess that seeing girls like me walk into the shop provokes an instantaneous eye-rolling wonder. Another chick who's gonna want butterflies, birds or flowers, I can almost hear him think...what about spiderwebs, flying crosses and skulls? I proved a disappointment, but a paycheck nonetheless and so he asked me to give him a moment to set up and sketch it out. It was on the tip of my tongue to tell him the details of what the tattoo meaning was, but he vanished down a hallway before I got the chance.
My sister whispered, "Do you think he'll let me come in with you?" like she was in fourth grade and terrified of being rapped on the knuckles by the teacher for talking in class.
"I'm sure," I said.
"He seems, um...intense."
"He does," I agreed, listening to the angry buzzing sound of a tattoo already in progress nearby.
"Doesn't that sound freak you out?"
"No...not really," I told her, but then the noise ramped up and I thought twice about it.
He came out and led us to room with a curtain, then he set up his artist's palette of black and white, indigo and palest robin's egg blue, a deep jewel green...
"You ready?" he asked.
He set the stencil on my upper right shoulder and damn near smiled when I complimented its positioning in the mirror. He rested his gloved hand on the hollow of my spine and let it linger just a moment.
"We're going to start. If you need me to take any breaks, just let me know."
I nodded and he dipped the tattoo gun in the ink, "How long since your last tattoo?" he asked me somberly, and I flashed on twelve years of Catholic school and the priest obscured by a lacy wooden screen and that disembodied, "How long since your last confession?" and I almost laughed aloud.
"Oh...it's been thirteen years?" I said, "I almost forget what it feels like."
Again his hand rested on my skin, "You'll remember pretty quick."
He was right.
My sister got him talking about movies and comic book heroes and I counted beads on the japa mala hanging from my right wrist. My back felt that jagged burning a tattoo creates...a half-pain, half-irritation that made me sweat and tremble slightly. I found myself wanting to confess to this tattoo guy...wanting to tell him why I picked this design and why I needed the visual touchstone to remind me not to give up on pursuing my wishes and dreams...I wanted to confess to him right there how hard the last year of my life was, how much pain and uncertainty has plagued me and why I was *compelled* on my birthday to open the next year up on my own terms.
Instead, I held my silence. But, my confession would have been something like this: the dandelion clock (gone to seed) reminds me of childhood, innocence and a youthful perspective...they make me think of impermanence and non-attachment, the fleeting nature of time and circumstances...blowing on a dandelion is the act of putting wishes "out there". This next year of life is *all* about doing just that for me. I did ask him to put three seeds off of the dandelion, undulating through the "air" of my skin. Three for three wishes and for my three children, who represent to me the best of my hopes for the future...
A week later, my skin is still scabbed over and healing. But I couldn't be happier with the gift I gave myself to celebrate this new year & everything after...
microscopic photo c/o Jason Ruck
click to watch DANDELION