October Musings

This post is different than what I typically write for this blog, but I was feeling it. Writing for an audience is great, but writing for yourself is way more fun.

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“What does that mean?” people often ask when they see the small, poorly etched tattoo on my right hand. I make eye contact. “It means change,” I respond simply. I throw in a smile.

The tattoo is of two overlapping triangles. The points of the triangles are soft. They didn’t dull with age, though. They were never sharp. Like most finger ink, the lines aren’t perfect. Up close, the triangles look as if they were drawn with pen, then smeared slightly. The black ink fills some of the creases of my skin outside the triangle, so that now there are lines that zig zag outward like thin, black tributaries. The triangles are also uneven and, after two years of sun exposure, they’re faded, too. Now they look more blue-black than true black.

But I dig it. My tattoo artist told me to come back to get a free touch up, but I never did. I walked away with my imperfect ink, delicately placed on the middle finger of my right hand. The 15-minute sketch cost me $50.

I have another tattoo. It’s on the back of my neck and stays mostly covered by my long, thick hair. I got it while living and working as a journalist in New York City. At the time, I chose the design as a reminder to slow down, be mindful. I was 21 and working two jobs in two time zones. The nudge was necessary, but easily forgotten behind my curtain of hair. I still rarely remember I have the tattoo until someone points it out.

But my tattoos are special in that they are memories. They remind me of moments past, of other lives lived and cities loved. I look at the one on my hand and remember the crisp air outside the tattoo shop the day I got it. It was one of the first days of fall and though the trees were still green, the air had already turned cool. It whipped loose hair into my face as I opened the door to the shop.

The tattoo on my neck reminds me of a warm New York night. It was July. I picked my tattoo artist based on the celebrities he’d inked. He’d tattooed Rihanna, or so he told me, and so I trusted him to tattoo me. My then boyfriend watched from a chair. He told me he didn’t like the design. I got it anyway. We walked home after, witnessing a fender bender on our way. I remember staring at the tattoo—my first—in the bathroom mirror, simultaneously excited and mortified that I would never see bare, olive skin on that part of my neck again.

Even so, I don’t regret my ink. My tattoos are memories. Every time I see the tiny sketches on my skin, I remember the girl I was at the time that I got them, and I smile at the thought of her.