Saturday, February 18, 2006

Boldly Going

I’ve gotten my body marked permanently four times in the past, and each time has been preceded by considerable thought. The bear claw on my calf was as much a symbol of my newfound freedom (George never wanted me to get tattoos) and my discovery of Shawn at a bear meeting as much as my love of bears itself. I’d been thinking about the bear claw for a long, long time. Then came the Stephen King one, which I’d, of course, been considering for over a decade. Daredevil was more recent, decided over Spider-Man as symbolic as the type of superhero I would be if I really were a superhero. And Springsteen? Well, we all knew I was going to get a Springsteen tat at some point, it was just a matter of what.

So when I came upon the idea of the Star Trek one, it sort of surprised me. I knew what I wanted, I had a pretty good idea where I wanted it (changed from the chest to the arm because even I’m not that big a geek), and I just sort of ... did it. None of the pomp and circumstance that has come with getting all my others, none of the greater symbolic import. I didn’t really build it up in my mind, is what I’m saying. I said, “Hey, this’ll be neat,” I printed out some designs, and then early this morning, I just went ahead and did it.

Rob picked me up a little before eleven and we headed out to Chameleon in Harvard Square. Their website says they open at 11:00 on Saturdays, but their website lies like a high school girl the morning after prom. Rob and I, upon encountering the closed door, headed down for some Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts (Rob’s breakfast: an egg sandwich; mine: a cupcake. Jesus.), then back up to wait for all the inking. When the door opened, I stepped in and requested the guy I had last time, a punker-boy marvel named Kelly, who inked my Springsteen and thought it was neat.

The girl at the counter looked at my printout and smiled. “Oh! I spoke with you yesterday, didn’t I?”

I blushed a little. “Um, yeah. I’m the world’s biggest geek.”

She pointed to my shirt, the one that said geek across the front. “And you’re advertising now!”

Then Kelly came out and looked at it. “You know,” he said, “I’ve been tattooing a long, long time, and I’ve never done one of these. You are certainly unique.”

“I wasn’t sure about coloring it,” I said hesitantly. “I was thinking maybe just an outline.”

He raised his eyebrows. “Are you sure? We could maybe do some fun stuff with coloring here.”

“Well, can you make it look metallic?”

He glanced at the reception girl. “Can I make it look metallic?”

“You do whatever you want,” I told him. “I trust you completely.”

The fortunate thing about Kelly is that he’s really talented. I say this is fortunate because I have been known, on very rare occasions, to be swayed by ludicrously attractive men who haven’t a whole lot going for them other than that they’re sexy. I mean, once or twice. I’m only human.

Kelly did some sketching in the back and then brought it out to me. I’d been a little nervous up to this point, given Shawn’s sort of negative stance on the whole Trek tat idea (his exact words were, “Oh my God, don’t do it.” This is awhile before I was heading out the door, when he amended it to, “Whatever you want to do, I’m behind you a hundred percent. I was just sort of testing your mettle.” My boyfriend is ... sometimes a bit of a challenge. But so lovable.)

Then Kelly called me in, had me strip off my shirt, leaned over me, and asked, “You ready?”

No hesitation: “Let’s go.”

At first, I felt a little nervous. Searing, constant pain does that. In a way, it's the opposite of pregnancy. You remember the pain, but you forget the endorphin rush that comes midway through.

The thing is, the shoulder is like the least painful part to get tattooed (the most, at least in my experience, is the inner arm. Seriously. Though I've never done my testicles.) Rob watched from the doorway, snapping pictures, seeming to be a little amazed at how well I was taking it. Making everything even better: Kelly resting his big, meaty arm on mine. Damn, that man is sexy.

At one point, midway through, I was for some reason moved to apologize to him for the utter geekitude of the tattoo. Kelly grinned a little. "Please, man. When tourist season begins, it's going to be fuckin' Celtic butterflies and shamrocks for three months. They're gonna line up outside the doors, chanting, 'Sham-rock, sham-rock!' The fact that this is a change allows me to have a little bit of fun with it." Um, wow. Okay! Thanks, Kelly!

Forty-five minutes into it, my outline was done. Already it looked better than I'd anticipated. It helps to have a tattoist with an art degree. The best thing is that he also has a photography degree, so he knows what light makes the best natural light, which means he's going to put the best olor possible on my arm. I love getting tattoos far too much. And I'm kind of a bleeder.

Rob dashed off to put money in the meter, which didn't take all that long, especially considering that we both thought that the coloring process was going to take a lot longer. "I get guys in here who want Cadillacs tattooed on their backs," Kelly explained to me, as he layered blue and white on. "So I've worked with stuff that looks like chrome. It's really not all that hard." I'd never seen white ink before - or, for that matter, blue or yellow. I was afraid that the yellow was going to make me look jaundiced.

Instead, it actually looked amazing. When I conceived of this idea, I was kind of accepting the fact that it was not only going to be super geeky, but also kind of silly-looking. Somehow, in spite of the sheer nerditude, Kelly made it look actually pretty dang cool. And I will forever be grateful to him for that.

So, that's five now. One each representing love, books, comics, music, and TV. Iconography is my body's geography. I wonder what's going to be next.