Tag Archives: Tattoo artist

The Terrible, Beautiful Tattoo

Sacred  Heart

Image by slurv via Flickr -- NOTE: This is not a picture of my tattoo. This is gorgeous!

It was out of character for me, but I showed up without a plan.

Just a little scribble on a scrap of paper.

I asked a few million questions about the needles.

“Lady,” said the man at the counter, “we ain’t interested in spreadin’ diseases.”

Jed, the newest apprentice, was available.

I agreed. Jed would be fine.

What did I know?

I wanted a tattoo.

So I dropped my pants and allowed a stranger to drag needles across my skin.

As I laid on the table, I listened to the rain that pummeled the tin roof over our heads.

And through the open door, I watched the rain sweep cigarette butts into the sewer.

Any other day, I would have been sitting cross-legged on the futon in my apartment grading student papers. Lying there, I was grateful I didn’t have a dog that needed to be let out at any particular time. I remembered how – before I was a teacher, a role model — I liked a little spontaneity.

Eventually, Jed finished.

I couldn’t wait to see it.

I had shown Jed that initial sketch, but he had taken some liberties.

And he left me with a permanent lopsided heart.

I paid seventy-five dollars in cash for my little act of rebellion.

Initially, I was annoyed by its wrongness.

But I quickly grew to love it.

And twenty years later, each time I look at my tattoo (that has become even more crooked over time), I remember a lazy day in New Orleans. An in-between time, when I was neither wife nor mother but dangerously free.

My tattoo reminds me of a place I love fiercely. It reminds me how love without patience and care can become unbalanced. Most of all, my tattoo reminds this Type A control-freak that when a person acts impulsively, sometimes the results can be pleasantly imperfect.

What do you think about tattoos? Art or self-mutilation?

• • •

I so rarely have time to do the fabulous prompts from Red Writing Hood, but this week, it spoke to me. The assignment: Write a piece in which a tattoo figures prominently in 300 words.

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