Inked Up

April 26, 2012
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Some people say art shouldn't be on the skin. They call it disgusting, obscene, and “the devil's work.” But when I walk down the street, displaying myself like a human mural, I feel proud. For tattoo artists our galleries are permanently on our customers. Our advertising is their popularity.. And our canvas is the simple beauty of the human body.

Waking up was always a problem for me. I would shut of all my senses in the night and forget to turn them back on the next day. But maybe I chose to forget so I wouldn't have to deal with my surroundings. Home, school, work. It was all the same thing. The only time I felt perceptive would be when I was creating. In my head or on paper, I'd fill up my time with art. Now my home is art and my work is art. I feel my senses in my sleep. They never shut off anymore.

I wake up at nine almost every morning, excited to leave my apartment and enjoy the commute to my shop. When I'm ready, I step outside, enjoying the breeze and buzz of my city. Taking my time, I light a cigarette and begin my walk to St. Marks. I'm never in a rush because I'm usually the first to arrive. We open at ten and my piercer and employees are usually late. I don't mind though because it gives me more time to people-watch before work.

When I arrive at 10:15, the store is still closed, as usual. I'm always the one to open it. It's inspiring to step into a beautiful, empty tattoo parlor and think “This is mine, as far as I can see.” My work hanging on the walls, my station in the back room, and my steady income in my pocket. This used to be my dream; now I'm living it. Sighing, taking it all in, I hear the front door open. One by one my employees arrive to sell their time.

The time passes by quickly. I spend my day laughing with my friends and taking customers. A man comes in and asks for a lion on his back; no problem. His first session takes a few hours, but we pass the time and pain by getting to know each other. He tells me his wife died and later that year his daughter ran away. He was left all alone. His daughter had a gorgeous lion tattoo on her upper back. In an attempt to reunite with her he asks me to replicate what he can remember of it, and immortalize her on his skin. You see, tattoos come with a lot of broken pasts. This is why it is so meaningful to me to permanently combine my art with another person's story.

There is always at least one underage kid that comes in asking for a tattoo. Remembering my own interest in body modification when I was young, I always wish I could say yes. But if I did get caught my store would get shut down and I would never take the risk of losing what I've worked so hard for.

At six, it's finally closing time and time to relax. But it all depends on what I'm doing that night. On weekdays I may just go home and sleep. After all, eight hours is a tiring shift. On weekends I have different plans. In New York there's always something to do on a Friday night. I may go to a concert and dance away my stress, or go to a bar and drink it away. Either way, it is my time to clean up the worries I have, fights I get into, and unsettling thoughts. These nights are my favorite because I forget all the bad in the world is still there outside my head.

At some point before sunrise I stumble home, tired and defeated, knowing there are only a few hours until my next shift. These nights I hate my job because I know I'll barely get any sleep. I'll be a zombie tomorrow. I loathe having to hear that alarm clock in my ear; feeling my body sink as I rise from my grave. But when the morning comes, I find myself magically flying. My spirits are lifted and it feels like I'm asleep again. Nothing is real; nothing. It's all just a beautiful dream.

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