Engraving My Body

March 3, 2017
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I wasn’t as nervous as most people are when they decide to engrave something onto their skin. I was more excited to get a tattoo than I was afraid, because the pain is temporary, but the mark is forever. As I walked to the room to where I would be getting the tattoo, my heart didn’t start beating fast like it normally does when I get nervous. This surprised me, because I usually build up anxiety and fret about anything that requires thought. Even as I lay down on the chair, I was still unaffected by any doubt of getting the tattoo.

We were at our local Dairy Queen when I had first brought up the idea of a tattoo to my parents. The tall, slender figure of my dad was up at the counter grabbing our food. My mom was sitting across from me, her casual smile greeting me. I was nervous as to what they will say when I try and ask them if I could get a tattoo, because I was 17 at the time, and you need a parent with you during the procedure if you are under 18. I didn’t feel like waiting until I was 18 to get the tattoo; I was ready then. I have always seen them as a way that represents holds something important, while also looking cool. I would see them in the movies as a kid and admire the neat display of artwork on someone’s body

“Hey mom, what do you think about me getting a tattoo?” I asked my mother.

“I don’t mind, as long as you know you want it and aren’t going to regret it,” she replies. This is surprising to me, because she usually has more of a fight in her with something that has an impact on me for the rest of my life.
“Really, I thought you disliked tattoos.” I say, surprised.

“Yes, as long as you will still want it when you’re 80, then it’s fine with me.” She then gives me the reason as to why she hadn’t gotten one before. “When I was training to be a nurse, we had this anatomy class where we worked on the bodies of humans, a couple of which had tattoos. Once we had a look at the ink underneath the skin after all of those years, it deterred me from the thought of getting one.”

It was about this time when my dad sat back down with our food. We had  started to fill him in on the conversation at hand. He didn’t mind me getting a tattoo either, which didn’t surprise me as much as my mom being okay with it, because my dad has always been more lenient. I told them that one of them would need to be with me during the procedure due to the fact that I wasn’t 18. They told me they would figure out who would go with me, but I would need to set up the appointment. I didn’t see this as a way to rebel against my parents, because I was open about wanting to get it, and I knew I needed their permission to get the tattoo while I was still that age. It had nothing to do with them, it was all for me, and I wanted it. I think they knew that too, because they were very open to the idea and they saw that if it’s what I wanted, then I should get it.

I researched a couple different places in Fargo, North Dakota that looked to be pretty good at what they do. The one that I chose was called “Addictions.” I had got in contact with one of the employees named Taylor and started going through the process of making the appointment. They needed a picture of what I would like to be made into a tattoo. I had thought about what I had wanted for a couple of months, but had changed my mind when the idea of a dragon was brought up.  My original tattoo was going to be a lone wolf, but the idea of a dragon sounded cooler. I had tried sending three different dragons that I wanted, but none of them worked because of the size and location of the tattoo, money, or time. I finally got one of them to work, but I kept looking just in case I found something more to my liking. I had the appointment set for Saturday of that week.

Dragons have caught my eye since I was a kid. They are fierce and powerful, while being majestic and mysterious at the same time. I inspect each one I see with awe and ponder how a fictional creature can seem so real. I didn’t just want it because dragons are cool, but it holds a message to me the same that the lone wolf did. To me, the dragon represented a strength of one. It showed how I needed to be strong within myself and in the end, I need to be able to count on myself for support, because in all the things I’ve seen about dragons, they are solitary individuals. I felt the timing was appropriate, because my girlfriend at the time was going to be leaving for college in the next month, and I knew she wasn’t going to be doing long distance with me or anyone for that matter. I figured the representation of strength would help me get through what emotions were to come when things ended between us. I needed my message to support me through that hard time and make sure that I was happy with myself after we ended things.

I found that the message had served me some support when things had ended between us.

My parents had both decided that they would come with me to the tattoo shop while I got the tattoo done. The appointment was made for early afternoon with an artist named Blaine. The walls of the shop were lined with a unique variety of paintings and tattoo templates. The counter was long and filled with rings and gauges for piercings. In the lobby, there was a circle of chairs straight in front of the door about ten feet away with a table in the middle with a bowl of suckers on it. There was rock music playing through the speakers above, which I enjoyed. I could also hear the constant buzzing of the artists’ needles at work. The buzzing they made sounded like a more defined and higher pitched tone than that of a hair trimmer.

I had found a new design that I had wanted to be made into my tattoo, so I checked in with the man at the counter to see if that was okay to change my design at short notice. I had my design now picked out, but Blaine came out to talk to me about the design. He was an older man, maybe early 60’s, glasses, long, white hair, and a beard to match. His arms were covered with tattoos; I could see a couple showing on his neck, and there was red tattoo in the middle of his forehead. He reminded me of a Viking, by the way his hair and beard looked, plus the tattoo on his face looked like a Viking marking. He came to ask me permission for him to “beef” up the dragon a little bit, to give it more of a complete look. I told him that sounded like a good plan. I was excited to see what he could add to the design. After about 20 minutes, he came back with his new version of the template, which I really liked, so we went with that for the final drawing. He then asked me to follow him back to his working area. He told me to grab a couple of suckers to chew on while he worked on the tattoo, because it is good to have a high blood sugar level while getting tattooed.

To start things off, he had to shave any hair off of the area he was going to be working on. He then put the temporary ink template onto my right abdomen. Now the real procedure was about to begin, and I was excited. I laid down on the table as he got his needle ready to go. Many people say that the pain of getting a tattoo is indescribable. Once he started working on me, I could describe how it was. The pain that the needle generated felt like someone took a jigsaw and started cutting into my side, but my pain tolerance is high, at least for the tattoo, so I didn’t make any commotion or movements that might throw off his concentration during the procedure. He commented multiple times on how well I was handling the pain compared to most people. He also thanked me for not moving around or tensing up, because he said it is very difficult to try to keep the pen steady on someone who is moving. It was estimated to be about 3 hours, which didn’t seem like much at first, but as time went on, time couldn’t go fast enough. I would bite down on the sweet and cheap suckers I had whenever he would dig the pen into my side. I was indifferent to what type of flavor the sucker was, even if it was coconut, because I was just using it as something to bite down on.  At a certain point, I could think about other things that made the pain less noticeable. I couldn’t do this when he would be working on the skin above my ribs, because that hurt way more than anywhere else. Once he was done with the outline, he let me take a break and look at how it was so far. He proceeded to tell me that shading the tattoo hurt less than the outline because of the technique used for filling it in. He was definitely right. The pain was a lot more tolerable, but it was going to take a while to fill in.

His workspace had a lot of comical pictures that related to things that happened in the 80’s. I would look at the different posters while he was working on the tattoo to help distract me from the pain of each movement of the pen. He showed me his squeaky toys and bells that he uses whenever people are whining or complaining, which he didn’t have to use on me. He was a very sociable man and he was funny with example of the squeaky toys and bells. He had an edgy and dry sense of humor, which I found funny because that’s the way I am too.
Each time he would press the pen to my side, I would find some way to clench some part of my body that wouldn’t affect where he was working, like my hands, or my jaws onto the stick of the suckers. My side constantly felt raw throughout the process wherever the pen had previously gone. When he had finally finished, it felt like he still had more to do, but when I looked down, he was in fact done. He took a picture of it for his instagram and he told me that in the description, he would put that I was “One tough son of a gun.” He put a quick bandage on it that I was supposed to take off after about an hour. I looked at it in the mirror before he put the bandage on and I was pleased with the tattoo. Blaine proceeded to tell me about how to take care of the tattoo for the next two weeks so that it heals properly. This included how to shower with the tattoo, putting lotion on it daily, not picking at the scab, and some smaller details like sleeping with an old shirt on just in case it oozes in the middle of the night.

I thanked him for his time and work on my tattoo as I made my way to pay for it. I had to pay $200 at that time, because I already had a $100 deposit on it when I made the appointment. My dad had said that he would pay $150 for the tattoo as a birthday present, which was just fine with me. My brother had offered to help pay too, but my dad told him not to because he was already helping pay for half of it. Each time I would first look at it, it seemed surreal that I actually had a tattoo. I made sure it wasn’t going to be somewhere that might halt me from getting a job, because some places don’t allow them to be shown. Since then, I have gotten used to it, and it seems as much a part of me as my arms or legs. That day I left the shop with a message on my body that I will never forget. Most people who see it may not understand the true meaning behind Irrendar, my dragon. I named him to make the tattoo to make it seem more real and help solidify the tattoo. It also makes it easier to refer to and it keeps it closer to me, even though it is basically a part of me. Every time I look at him in the mirror, he seems to speak his message loudly to me. I hear his message, the one that I hold every day.

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