I felt a bit silly when I stepped into the shop. A man was lying down, his shirt off; the artist was busy with a drawing worthy of the Sistine Chapel. Scaffoldings would have not surprised me. Somehow, I think the one under the needle was grateful for the interruption. The owner dealing with me gave him a breather.
– How can I help?
– I’d like a tattoo.
“Sometimes, even the obvious has to be stated” was I once told by a university professor, but I’d just overdone it. Of course, I wanted a tattoo, why else would I be in a tattoo parlour?
– It’s only a few words. I know it’s no art to you, but it is to me.
He half-smiled. I didn’t think he was being condescending – though he might have been a little. He took a business card and wrote down the name of a website. He instructed me to look up the font I wanted, print out the words and come back a week later to make an appointment. I did as I had been told and, a week later, interrupted yet another tattoo session to hand him the piece of paper with typewriter fonts, then made him take another break a few minutes later after having run to the bank to get some cash for the down payment.
– You were fast!
– I’m excited!
I was. Like a little girl. I had been dreaming about getting a tattoo for so long… 17 years.
Another week later, I was standing in front of the mirror of the shop, trying to figure out what he was telling me.
– It will be upside down.
I looked at my wrist before letting my arm drop and look at my reflection.
– It won’t (I lifted my arm again and studied my wrist) I’ll read it like that.
– Yes but when you’ll drop your arm, it will be upside down.
It finally dawned on me.
– I’m not getting a tattoo for others to read. It’s for myself.
– All right. It’s just that I’m deontologically obligated to let you know.
– You’ve acted deontologically, don’t worry. I take full responsibility.
– It’s typically feminine.
– What is? Taking full responsibility?
– No, silly. Having tattoo’s done upside down.
– Really? That’s funny.
Later, as I left the shop, I realised it might have to do with men being more of show offs, getting tattoo’s for others to see but I didn’t think about that on the spot; I regretted it, it would have made a hell of a debate.
– Anyway. I’m the one who’ll be walking around with an upside-down tattoo.
– Exactly. It’s your call.
I am not going to lie: it hurt. At some point, it seemed he was digging in my flesh with a sharp blade (well, he obviously didn’t write with a feather). I did not watch. I was a bit worried it would get me sick and I did not want to be that person but most of all, I wanted it to be a “surprise”. I kept my eyes on the ceiling even when he cursed.
– I wrote “poverty” instead of “poetry”.
I laughed nervously. I had been so worried to misspell my tattoo; wouldn’t it be ludicrous if the tattoo artist messed it up?
– Find poverty…, I mused.
– Enjoy the simple things, he added.
– Of course! There’s Beauty in simple things. That is exactly the point of my tattoo. There! We fixed it.
I waited for a few seconds before asking:
– So, do you always make that joke?
– You realise I didn’t even look?
– You trust me that much?
– I do, weirdly enough. Then again, you’re the one with the needle. I’d better trust you.
It took nearly an hour. It wasn’t wasted. True to myself, I talked a lot and asked him many questions. I love stories that much.
– Did you ever get weird requests?
– Mmm… not really. I do refuse to make some tattoos. I have principles.
He needn’t explain. I could imagine him cringe at the thought of a racist symbol. I wondered how much he himself was being judged by his looks. A heavily tattooed biker… easy target.
But in the end, I am prejudiced myself. I am assuming someone who speaks lovingly of his friends and lightens up when mentioning nature is a good person. It is a snap judgment. Maybe I’m wrong and I should file him according to his nickname.
But you know I’d rather trust my instincts. You know I look for goodness in people. You know that I do that with life.
You all know that and still I sometimes forget.
I had to ink my right wrist, my writing hand, as an affirmation of who I am and as a reminder for the days I fall into old habits. To always