Friday, October 19, 2007

Proud Skin

Have you seen what a tattoo machine looks like? Imagine a sewing machine, only less bulky. The needle used is a sterile syringe needle; the artist first draws a preliminary pattern on your skin, dips the needle in ink and turns the machine on.

Ouch! It feels like hot wires on my skin. After painstaking minutes (or hours, depending on your design), the area is swabbed with petroleum jelly, and covered in gauze. In a few days the tattoo would scab and peel, and the permanent mark is now set.

So why would a puny 20 year old, who is afraid of needles, get one? That, my friend remains a mystery even to me. Mind you, I didn’t have mine done at some mall establishment, no Sir! I went to Quiapo, of all places, and found the seediest tattoo place with a scary-looking artist. Upon seeing my “innocent looking young face”, he commented to his pals “Akin na lang ‘to.” And they all burst out laughing.

I swallowed my fear and gave him my drawing- it was an Egyptian scarab beetle. He looked at me a little differently after seeing my drawings. I guess artists do connect on some level, whatever media it is they work on. So we climbed a flight of narrow stairs to his even seedier-looking studio and asked me to sit on the tattered sofa.

“500.” He says. I nodded in agreement. By the time he was swabbing the area with alcohol, all the blood drained from my face. He peeled packaging of the syringe needle and went to work.

Looking back, I had to give that scrawny 95 pound UP student some credit. Also, I wanted to hit him in the head with a tattoo machine for getting three tattoos. It makes me laugh really, the reason why I got my first one- I felt I was too “vanilla” and I thought I’d look sexy and “bad-boyish” if I got one. The next two, I had more personal reasons.

Voluntary scars, that’s what they were. I always remembered having this feeling- perhaps defiance, or non-conformity and I wanted myself never to forget that I chose to be different. You’ll get what I mean when we are on the same wavelength.

I still don’t know how it will look like when it’s lasered off. Will it be gone completely like they never were there in the first place? Or would I still see hints of what once was my proud skin? Of course, I now know much of who I am is way deeper than my skin. I’ll just miss them, that’s all.

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