When I was sixteen, I thought I was fat an ugly. I was severely overweight [5 foot 6 and 83kg!!] and everyone I met said I was ‘soooo biiig!’ It was mostly because I was a runt of a child before puberty, so the sudden explosion was a shock to everyone, including me!

Anyway, I was in a Catholic High School where we couldn’t wear jewellery or style our hair, and our uniforms were so shapeless that they’d make Salma Hayek look like a plum. So I got it into my head that a nose ring would make me look pretty. I pierced my nose and got a tiny gold stud like Esther in Tushauriane. It got me massive compliments for years until I lost it. Never been bothered to get a new one, possibly because I don’t feel fat and ugly anymore. Also, having a stud in my nose made people think I was wild and crazy, and that attracts a certain kind of guy. I enjoyed the attention, but I’m not really that person anymore.

Recently, I had a different idea – tattoos! I’ve wanted one for years, but I was afraid of the pain and the needle. I even went as far as picking a design and making an appointment, but I chickened out at the last minute. I’m not sure why I wanted a tattoo. I guess I liked the idea of seeming rebellious. Plus, there’s a tattoo fad in the office, so I figured maybe it was time to pursue my lifelong … um … craving. I started by asking where I could get one, gathering phone numbers, getting quotations, doing polls on the pain levels, picking a design, and recruiting the pretty one to come hold my hand in case I screamed like a girl.

I still wasn’t sure I’d go through with it. I figured I was just mark timing, gathering psyche. But after a particularly hard Friday at work, I woke up needing TLC and therapy, so I headed to the tattoo parlour. I got to Yaya and spent five minutes staring at the boards, trying to figure out where the shop was. The watchie saw my lost look and gave me directions.

The parlour is called Body Shock, and it’s on the second floor. They do piercings as well as tattoos, so the front of the shop is full of sunglasses and jewellery. I walked past it a few times before I realized what I was looking for. The lady at the counter called Abu, and my first thought was that he looked very … normal. Oddly enough, I can’t remember what he was wearing, but he had glasses and a silver hoop on one ear.

He asked if I had my own design or whether I’d prefer to use theirs, and I told him I wanted a spider in a web. Why? Because everyone else has a butterfly. He showed me a folder that had lots of spiders and webs, and I picked a design that had the Grim Reaper Scythe and blood, though I suggested that he leave out the blood. Abu frowned a little and explained that the design may not show clearly on my skin. Dark skin works better with tattoos that have open spaces. He recommended a few other designs, but they were all, you know, ugly.

Abu then suggested he could modify one of the spiders to make it more [yes, he grinned as he said this] pretty. I figured it might help if he made the head smaller and the tummy bigger, and he said he could draw the web around the spider to make it clearer. I then told him I’ve always wanted a crying heart motif, and that maybe I could get one on my foot, but he said I should come srore – one tattoo at a time. Yes, I stuck out my tongue.

As a compromise, I asked if he could incorporate the heart and tears into my spiderweb, but we couldn’t see how, since the web would block it out. In the end we decided to place the spider below the heart and leave that area of the web blank. He made a little sketch which was absolutely brilliant, and the lady at the cashier told me it would cost 6K, though she had reservations about the teardrop. She didn’t think it would work with my skin tone. But I’m stubborn, and I insisted, and Abu is The Master so I knew he’d pull it off. The only problem is that it was almost 12, and Abu had an appointment at 2.30. but I knew that if I walked out of that parlour, I might not come back, so Abu offered to squeeze me in and get it done in an hour. Yay for me!

What. I was using an Ideos.

The way a tattoo works is that a series of *cough*cough*tiny-but-extremely-long*cough* needles are mounted onto a scary-looking spring casing, so what the needles do is repetitively duck in and out of your skin depositting ink. Sometimes, there’s blood involved, and your skin might develop a slight swelling bruise. Yeah, sounds like fun. The lady asked if I’d had breakfast and suggested I grab a juice or something. I’d made such a big deal about the pain that I’m sure she was worried I might faint. I bought a smoothie and got lost on my way back, but I found the place just as they were sending out a search party.

The parlour is an interesting place, and I looked around nervously at the dragon books and the images of piercings. There’s also a fridge and a microwave, and I asked Abu if they were part of the tattoo ritual. No, just a regular fridge and microwave. I asked him if he’d use anaesthesia, and he said I didn’t really need it. He has a way of making you trust him, like he knows exactly what he’s doing. My trust wavered a little when he asked me to fill a disclaimer. They’re never a good sign. Still, he was very reassuring, and showed me his own tattoos as proof that nothing would go wrong.

Abu placed a stencil on my arm and pressed it, leaving the design on my skin. Then he got the machine ready and I considered pissing myself. I mean, seriously, have you seen that thing! I distracted myself by babbling, and I can’t remember half the stuff I said, though I remember asking how he got into tattoos, and he responded that he just did. He’s a brilliant artist by the way, and he paints too. I asked the price of the needle [anything between 15,000 and 100,000] and the training involved [most tattooists DIY, and it helps to have crazy adventurous relatives to practise on.]

I asked him how you get a job as a tattoo artist. I mean, somehow I can’t picture anyone filling out an application form and showing up in a suit. Well, in his case, his work speaks for itself, so he was recommended for the job. I asked about infections, and he showed me how to avoid them. He told me he sometimes refuses to do tattoos because people aren’t ready for them. After all, it’s a big commitment – you’ll be wearing that thing the rest of your life!

Yeah, so here’s the part your really want to know … does it hurt? Not really. But that’s probably because I have flabby arms, and the flesh cushioned the pricks. The shading parts stung a little more, but that’s because I wasn’t looking. I should probably explain that. See, during my pre-needle research, I was told that:

  1. It hurts, but not as much as childbirth.
  2. It hurts less if you focus on what he’s doing.
Just so you know, it's really sterile ... and really long!

So for the first half hour, I stared intently at the tattoo spot and babbled about God knows what. After a while, my neck hurt from keeping it at unnatural angles, so Abu suggested I stop being a control freak and stare at the ceiling instead, which I did, and that’s when it started to hurt. Of course Abu insists it had nothing to do with the ceiling. He says it’s because he was retouching a section he’d already tattooed, so the skin was raw. Yeah, po-tay-to-po-ta-to. Either way, the pain wasn’t that bad, and I’m the biggest chicken that I know!

While he was working, Abu routinely wet-wiped the area to get rid of excess ink and make sure the design was working well. It took about one and a half hours, and when he was done, I was ready to kiss his feet. It was beautiful!! There was a little swelling, and he dressed it with a loose gauze bandage. He also gave me clear instructions on how to care for it. Grabacin for three days and white lotion thereafter. Grabacin costs 150/= at Pentapharm, but can be up to 300/= within Yaya.

He also warned me not to panic when the dead skin started to flake and fade – it’s perfectly normal. He gave me a sheet of paper with detailed care notes, and I’m still carrying it around. It’s now a week later, and the skin has mostly flaked off. The tattoo itches a bit, but it’s still as hot as ever. I love it! I called Abu this morning to give him the design for my second tattoo, I’m hoping to get it done this Saturday. It’ll probably hurt a lot more, because this time, it’s on my leg – the one part of my body with no flab – but I’m steeled for it, so it’ll be fine. Of course Princess thinks my tattoo is awesome. We share that fascination, and she wants one immediately. I stalled by explaining the process [and exaggerating the pain involved], buying her a fake flower tattoo, and promising she can get a real one just as soon as she’s 18. That should be fun!

The second design is just as weird as the first, and Abu asked if somebody broke my heart. I laughed, because it’s been a while. I’m not being dark because I’m crushed. It’s more because I’m cynic and indifferent. I’m a die-hard romantic, but love is painful, and I no longer think it’s worth the drama. Still, as I watch my tats, I wonder if I feel this more deeply than I know. I looked at my spider chasing my crying heart, and I knew there’d be a million different interpretations. My brother already thinks I’m scary and goth, so I joked with Abu that I’d get some cover stories and use them when appropriate. After all, I’m a poet. I could write a mile-thick tome on the hidden meanings on my arm. But really, I just wanted something that wasn’t too cliche. I liked the idea that people would find me scary for having a spider on my arm, and I like the way people look at me when they try to figure out why it’s hunting down a bleeding heart. I enjoy shocking people. Also, it seems to have cured arachnophobia, so yay!

Yes, that's my arm!

My next tattoo will be a rose flower strangling a heart, sort of. I’m not sure why I thought of that idea. I originally just wanted the heart with the tear. I saw it once on Sunset Beach, when some psycho kidnapped Gabi and tattooed it on her … chest. But I like making things unecessarily complex, so I weaved in a choking rose. This despite laughing at Abu as I told him ‘everyone has a rose tattoo, it’s so cliche’ seconds before he showed me his own [immensely cool] rose-and-butterfly tattoos.

I didn’t think much about my rose-and-heart until I described it: ‘the rose stem with thorns will go round the heart like a snake and there will be teardrops at the end of the stem’. Yeah, sounds awful, doesn’t it? I suppose I should be worried that my random ideas are quite so … intense … seeing as the description – and the idea – came off the top of my head. Makes me wonder just how dark my thoughts really are, and whether a person can feel something without even knowing it. I’m told I smother people, and I know that I’m jealous and clingy, so I can see myself squeezing my loved one till he bleeds, but I wasn’t really thinking of that consciously. Oh well, those are analyses for another day. Today, I sit back and wait for The Master to show me the sketches of my new tattoo, even as I scheme and plot on how to get my hands on 6K before Friday. Wish me luck!

The Deep End ♫ Crossfade


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