Jessica's Second TattoobyInkArtist©
A true story, but names have been changed to protect the corrupted..
This was to be Jessica's second tattoo.
Her first tattoo was a simple thing she got several months earlier at my hand. She originally wanted a rose on her ankle, but I somewhat gently nudged her into something more interesting. Roses are so horribly hackneyed and trite; almost a default design for a person who knows they want a tattoo, but is not creative enough to think of something original. After some discussion, I inked a lovely orchid into the virgin skin of her ankle.
We began to correspond via email after that. I sensed that she was somewhat fond of me. She claimed that she wanted another tattoo. I expected this. Tattoos are so addictive that I have been accused of putting heroin in my inks. I also sensed that she wanted to try to spend a little more time in close proximity to me. I set up an appointment for her, the last of that evening, but even after some discussion, she did not have a design in mind.
She arrived a little early, and smiled sheepishly as I walked into the lobby area.
"Hey Jessica," I said, greeting her, "let's take a look at how that orchid turned out."
When I can, I like to inspect my work after it is healed, to see how the colors took to the skin, and whether it needs any minor touch-ups. She was wearing knee length shorts and low shows, and was obviously showing it off as she walked around town. She held the colors well, and the skin was smooth. She grinned proudly while she held her leg out for inspection.
"Looks great," I said.
"I'm very happy with it," she beamed.
"Well," I said, " do you know what you want for your next one?"
"No," she said, looking a little embarrassed.
I nodded, and in fact anticipated this. I already had a plan.
"Well," I said, "if you want some more work, but don't know what you want, let me come up with something or you."
"Okay," she said eagerly, "what do you have ready?"
"That's the catch," I said, "I get to choose what and where."
She looked at me somewhat dubiously.
"You like the orchid?" I asked, motioning to her ankle.
"Oh, I love it," she said enthusiastically.
"Then trust that I would do something just as beautiful."
She still looked uncertain.
"And this one is on me," I said, offering a further inducement.
She relented, but with conditions.
"Nothing on the face," she said firmly, "and nothing below the elbow."
"Those are my boundaries?" I inquired.
"Boundaries are made to be pushed," I said mischievously.
"We'll see," she said, giving me a dirty look.
I had her lay down sideways, the left side of her face against the cushion. I gently pulled the hair away from behind her ear, and dampened the area with water and soap. Taking a razor, I shaved away the small stray hairs in a half-circle behind her ear and then patted it dry.
I confess an over-fondness for Japanese art, and, since this was to be my choice, saw no reason not to share my tastes with her. Cherry blossoms were to be the subject. The cherry blossom represents the transience of beauty; they last but a few days and are soon lost in the whims of time. I traced a line with my finger across the prepared skin, imagining and visualizing the broad dimensions of the design I was going to place there. I settled in next to her, her head very nearly in my lap to perform the actual needle- work.
"Comfy?" I quipped.
"Yes," she said, "but I wish I knew what you were doing."
"You will soon enough," I replied.
I prepared the lining machine, and chose a very fine, single needle for the outline. This tattoo was to be primarily expressed with color, but I wanted a very fine line to give the shapes form.
I paused above her, the machine's reservoir already filled with black lining ink.
"This will be a bit daring," I warned her.
"After twenty-eight years I am ready to be daring," she replied, half in a trance, letting go.
I only nodded, and lined the first petal. My touch is fairly light, and she did not flinch too much as the needle grazed her skin, leaving a very fine black line. The lining proceeded quickly. First one swirling petal, then another, each one cascading and falling down behind her ear, some overlapping, each one lower and lower. The first petals, towards the top, were subtle, well hidden by her hair and her ear. But lower, they arched away, further from the ear, more visible, and less easily concealed.
Finally I reached the crux of the design, a complete cherry blossom. It was roughly the size of a quarter, and I knew where I planned on placing it.
Touch is an odd sense. It can be deceiving. I am not sure if she could really locate on her own body, her own face, exactly where my needle strayed as I gently lined in the last flower. She simply lay there patiently, eyes closed, wincing slightly as the needle gently flitted across her skin. After a few moments the outline was completed. I shaded the petals and the blossom with a deep magenta, golden yellow, and a touch of white for highlights. That went almost as quickly as the outline. The whole tattoo took much less than an hour.
"Its done," I said, a directed her to a mirror.
She faced the mirror and her breath caught, her right hand rose up to gently touch the blush of magenta that now graced her neck, seeing it for the very first time. The last blossom was centered well below her ear, just behind her jaw. The edge of one petal actually came near, and perhaps crossed, that uncertain boundary which separates a person's neck from their face.
She turned gave me a slightly panicked look. That confirmed what I thought, that she had no idea how low and forward I was bringing the design. She uncertainly played with her long, red hair, letting it down, shaking it out, studying herself again, and then brushing her hair down again, parting it to either side.
She then really knew. There was absolutely no hiding it. That blossom would be seen by every person she faced and would greet her whenever she looked into a mirror. She would forever be beyond the social norm, and now found herself on the other side of that intangible divide without even knowing that it was happening to her.
Which is exactly what I planned.
She swallowed hard, smiled at me and chimed, "I love it!"
And that was her second tattoo. She has already booked time for her third.