The idea first came to me late at night, when I was sitting alone in the cold and the dark, waiting for the arrival of the train to take me home. With little else to catch my eye, I found myself searching the sky, and resting upon the crescent moon, so white and so clear in its sheet of inky blackness. The moon is so beautiful, I thought, and then, because tattoos were on my mind at that moment, I should get it tattooed on me.
It made perfect sense, the more that I thoughts about it. The moon is often associated with witchcraft and the occult, which is something that I’ve had a lifelong interest in. It’s associated with femininity, which is definitely a trait that I appreciate in both myself and others. It’s associated with creativity and imagination and reaching for your greatest potential, and I would most definitely like to have all of that marked as a constant reminder on my skin.
After the thought first occurred to me, I couldn’t get it off my mind. I found myself searching for images of other people’s moon tattoos, trying to decide which of my trusted artists would be a best suit for the style I had in mind, and before I knew it, I was arranging an appointment to get it done, bumping it ahead of at least a thousand other ideas I’ve had kicking around for the past few years.
The day of my appointment, I arrived eagerly, thoughts of the pain that I was to endure far from my mind. Many people seem to dwell on the pain, lost in the idea that they’d love to get a tattoo if they weren’t so afraid of the pain. I’ve never had that problem. The way that I see it, I’m sacrificing a few small hours of my life to pain in exchange for a body I can be proud of, one that I can find beautiful and all my own. And that’s where I find my mind going before the tattoo – to the excitement of having that beautiful image become a part of me forever.
When the artist places the stencil on my skin, it already feels right. It already feels like something that should have been there all along, and that I’m only just making whole now. But perhaps that’s merely the influence of anticipation. The artist guides me to my seat, does a few last-minute things to set up, and then, somewhat unceremoniously, I hear that light buzzing that warns me of what’s to come.
My first response to the touch of the needle is oh, this is nothing. At first, I felt only the vibrations – little more than the feeling of a really busy cell phone balanced on my back. As she began to move her hand, I began to feel it a bit more, like the slice of a thin blade, a razor blade drawing beautiful designs in my skin. It some spaces, it hurts enough to make my breath catch. In others, it returns to being nothing more than an insistent vibration. I find myself marvelling at how strange it is that little more than a subtle shift of her hand can change the sensation so completely.
The worst of it comes when she begins to add colour. Though I know very little about tattoo machines, I know enough to say that the needle is different. It’s thicker, resulting in the oh-so-pleasant sensation that your skin is being scraped away rather than cut. I try to focus on breathing in and out steadily, rather than holding it in until I pass out, and though I try to hold my upper body as stiff and still so that the picture comes out as perfect as possible, the muscles in my legs twitch every once in a while. There’s very little colour, fortunately, and it isn’t long before she has nothing more to do than a few simple finishing touches, and it’s all done. The whole process takes little more than an hour.
A little more than an hour, and it’s done. A little more than an hour, and the beautiful image of the moon, as well as all it symbolizes, has become a permanent part of my skin. I’m thrilled when I see it, nestled beautifully amongst all that red and irritated flesh. A little more than an hour of perfectly manageable pain, and my body has come to reflect my personality only that much more.