What I know about tattoos I learned from D___. His entire right leg was tattooed, and most of his left leg. Both shoulders, all around his neck, most of both arms. His tattoos were serpents and Japanese letters and blues and purples, some red, beautiful tattoos, and I would examine them, lifting his leg while he lay on his back.
I wanted to get tattoos, but the desire hit me late, after I knew my body was mine to adorn for my pleasure. I wanted Our Lady of Guadalupe on my bicep, like Catholic sailors, except my bicep wasn’t big enough to hold her holy glory, plus I worried that her golden rays would droop as I got old.
But when I wanted tattoos I was firm, late 30s, after I’d had Dee and Em and knew that I could do things like birth babies on the bathroom floor or crouching like a tiger in my bedroom.
Why then, no tattoos? Mid-life crisis-y, that’s what I told myself. How desperate, how too-little-too-late. If I got tattoos, I’d want to be like D___, 1/3 of my body covered (by now probably the images creep up around his ears and chin like ivy crawling up a tree).
I’d want to paint myself in excess, or like piercings, be one of those people who start with a second hole in each ear, then add a small gauge. Then my lip and the spot above my eyebrow. My nose, and believe me, I considered my nose but later worried that I might get ancient and be dotted with holes that would affect my breathing, or worse, sag like big drops.
I remember Carmen Chavez’s cat pulled her earring straight through her ear and her lobe hung like a cloven hoof, all floppy like fringe, and that image stayed with me forever so that the piercings went the way of the tattoos. Out of mind.
I did get one second piercing on my right ear, although the last time I wore a stud in it was when I was 19, I think, and had teeny-tiny diamonds that Corky gave me and that I almost immediately lost, or one anyway.
I wish I had been the kind of young adult that thought nothing of changing my body, nothing of the risks of dirty needles — Cousin R___ got Hepatitis for life on account of his tattoos. I wish I could have colored away, I wish I’d even gone for the parts of my body where the skin sits on bone, showed my tolerance for pain and gotten Saint Lucy’s eyeballs, one on the top of each hand.
Someone once told me my art would make good tattoos, but I might have gone for more traditional images, a skull and bones on my other bicep, no dainty stuff, just the fare of soldiers and men my father’s age, a ribbon floating across my back shoulder, I Love You Jim!, except it might have had some other man’s name on it, an earlier love, for I would have been younger and bolder when I got it.
I’ve always been most in awe of the teardrops falling from the outside corner of a person’s eye, one drop for each year in prison, or is it for every five years, I wonder.
-related to Topic post, WRITING TOPIC – TATTOOS