Panorama of San Bernardino

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Inked

All I could think this morning was, I've inked my skin. I am no longer the good twin.

Yesterday, I stopped at a tattoo parlor in Upland. I had just met my best friend for a late lunch in Pomona after leaving work early. It was a Friday. I felt free blasting a Strokes album driving down Foothill Blvd from Claremont where I had stopped off at Rhino to buy the album in anticipation of their concert in a couple of weeks. I had seen a certain tattoo shop before and almost passed the driveway, but at the last minute I braked and made a sharp right turn to pull into the parking lot. The car behind me screeched to a stop and I shrugged at the car in my rear view mirror.

I sat in the parking lot in my car and changed the CD to hear a Bowie tune, Moonage Daydream, from the Ziggy Stardust album. I felt invincible. Blasting great music always makes me feel that way. I felt younger and lighter. I had wanted a Bowie tattoo since the day he died and had been planning it for months. I thought to myself, l'll just have them draw it out.

I walked in and a punk rock dude with a pierced face and stretched ears said, "Hey." Then he bent his face back down to his work. A woman was laying face down on a reclining chair grimacing as he inked in a tattoo on her lower back. Another guy named Billy (a big guy with arms sleeved with tattoos) looked up from a desk on the opposite side of the room and said, "How can I help you?" Billy's eyes looked kind and that stopped me from running away.

I felt like a poser in my black and pink Bowie shirt. At least I had done my winged eyeliner that morning. I pushed the words out. "I wanna get a Bowie tattoo. The lightning bolt. The red and blue one. From the Aladdin Sane album," I said quickly, my stomach buckling.

His eyes lit up. "Cool!" he said.

I showed him the pictures on my phone and I talked with him and the punk rock boy about Bowie, Iggy Pop and the New York punk scene bonding over our shared obsessions. "You wanna do it today?" Billy said with a smile." My stomach rumbled (my anxiety always starts there first) and I said, "I was just gonna make an appointment. I'm kind of scared. I have chickened out before. Six Feet Under Tattoo still has my Betty Page book." Billy smiled and said, "I got a couple hours, just do it. I can draw it right now. It just feels like a scratch."

I nodded. "Fuck it," I said. "Let's do this."

Two hours later, I lay face down, my nails digging into my palms. I had chosen my left shoulder because I have a higher pain tolerance on my back and went slightly larger than I had initially intended. Billy kept saying how great I was doing and I was surprised that I was able to get through it.

As he started the coloring in, I started thinking of my life and my journey from punk rock high school dropout to deputy public defender and I realized that the punk rock girl needed to come out more. I needed to live my life to the fullest and do all the things I was dreaming of. Like tattoos, like writing, like adopting a baby. Life was short. Recently, I had learned that the hard way.

"You're all done," Billy said with a smile. I looked at my back and smiled. I had done it. The lightning bolt would always be there to remind me to be artistic, and true and to reach for the stars.

Just like Starman.

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