‘Is it going to hurt?’
‘I honestly thought I was going to die last time.’ She says searching in her Vivienne Westwood handbag for a cigarette and then looking directly in to my eyes.
‘I thought an angel was going to appear from the ceiling and take me to heaven…’
I feel the blood drain from my face as she goes on.
‘I felt this warmth on my back, and thought oh god this it. This is me. I’m off. Off in to the clouds I go…’
Stood on the corner of a quiet street with a gorgeous and hilarious gal pal (she wanted me to call her that) the cool morning air biting at my face, making my lips tingle, the sun just setting up shop, not yet on full throttle but inching it’s way across the road and on to the pavement behind me, as if trying to chase me with a warning of the deep heat I could be in, I take a deep breath.
I am what some may refer to as, shaking like a shitting dog.
I am hopping about like a long tailed skunk in a room full of rocking chairs.
I am feeling no doubt, what every cow must feel right before it gets branded with a red hot poker.
Like releasing a huge cow pat.
‘Then what happened?’ I ask breathless and giddy, my stomach turning over reminding me to clench my buttocks in case I let one rip and embarrass myself.
‘Well. Basically the minute the needle went in’ she takes a long drag on her cigarette as she lights it and grins at me ‘I passed out, and the warmth I felt on my back was the big bloke who caught me waking me up.’
I explode in to nervous and slightly horrified giggles.
‘So not an angel?’ I ask, slightly disappointed. An angel would have been cool.
But fainting? Oh god. What if I faint? I tend to dribble when I faint, and everyone knows that dribbling in a tattoo parlor is social suicide!
‘No.’ she laughs back ‘Aw but he was honestly so lovely. It does hurt, but it’s nothing like childbirth so you should be fine, and at least if you faint you know he will catch you.’
I am about to respond that the catchy ‘its nothing like childbirth’ line has actually done nothing to calm the bowel movements I am currently experiencing when a heavily painted arm, with a neck and head attached appears around the door.
‘Lexy?’ he asked, surprisingly softly spoken, considering how mental and grizzly he looks with his long beard, his beanie hat and the heavy metal rock music providing the soundtrack to his entrance in to my life story.
There is no turning back now.
As I walk through the door I can hear the voices in my head.
‘Do not go ahead with this, or you will regret it! You are an embarrassment! What if it looks stupid? You do realise you are 32?’
‘I forbid you from doing this! You’ll never be cool enough to pull off a tattoo you stupid moose like knob jockey!’
‘You are 32 years old. It is your life, your body and you own your own mind.’
The tattoo man asks me to sit down on the stool opposite him and extend my right wrist.
I am shakily finding somewhere to prop Arthur (my new handbag – so beautiful he deserved a name) when another man appears to the left of me (presumably this is the body catcher) and asks me if I know who Black Sabbath are.
‘Is that the bloke who bit the head off a rabbit?’ I respond nervously, my eyes darting between their faces to the big feck off needle resting on the bench beside the ‘yob’ opposite me. (Yob, was my mothers voice muscling it’s way in to my psychic.)
‘Bat.’ He laughs. ‘ But yes.’
Damn it. There goes my street cred. (Oh Jesus, am I actually turning in to my mother? Mental note to self, stop thinking in my mother’s voice.)
‘Are you ready?’ Yob one asks, turning on the stabbing needle gun of death and aiming it towards my clear white beautiful and innocent arm.
I would like to tell you at this point, I calmly and coolly told him I was born ready, and everything went fine, but alas, I didn’t and it didn’t.
‘Hang on!’ I end up shouting directly in to the weapon yielding grizzly’s face before re-adjusting the volume setting on my anxiety and trying to appear calm and collected.
‘Can I ask you some questions?’
‘Shoot!’ he said smiling kindly (which would have been lovely if it wasn’t for the jerking metallic buzzing needle gun of disaster he was holding in his hand approximately 20 cm away from my face.)
‘Will it hurt?’ I asked honestly, the question seemingly pissing off the body catcher as he sighed and stropped off with a roll of his eyes. (Big grizzly men can strop – you learn something every day, as my mother always.. god damn it!)
Oh god. I have no body catcher.
I look down at the tile floor and wonder if Arthur would break my fall.
‘What do you think?’ Grizzly responds interrupting my thoughts and turning off the animated injector of pain and ink.
I breathe a shaky sigh of relief.
2 extra minutes to prepare.
‘I think it will.’ I respond with thought, moving Arthur on to the floor about a foot away from the stool.
If I feel myself going, I will aim my faint towards him.
‘You are right it will,’ he solemnly replies before nodding in the general direction of my left arm and making full eye contact.
‘But I notice you are covered in scars, which tells me one of two things, either you are absolutely crap at fishing (?!?) or you are a self harmer.’
I laugh in shock.
‘If you are the latter, which I am guessing you probably are because you have that sexy but damaged and slightly unhinged look about you, then I will tell you now it wont hurt nearly as much as that.’ He points at a deep bubbly scar above my left thumb. Burn?’
I smile at him gratefully.
He has totally put me at ease, bless his – evil clown tattooed, graveyard scened, burning Jesus dying on the cross-etched inky black- cotton socks.
‘Respect.’ He nods. (There are no words. In my opinion unless you are Eminem, you can not get away with saying ‘Respect.’ but whatever…)
Before I get chance to jump up and run outside to tell my gal pal (again she wanted me to call her that) that the tattoo man thought I was sexy and unhinged which in my mind passes roughly for cool, he ran his plastic gloved thumb over the trace on my wrist and turned the blade of doom back on.
‘Yes.’ I respond enthusiastically.
‘Woo?’ he asks again incredulously, a little louder.
‘Yes.’ I repeat nodding for extra effect. ‘Woo.’
He sighs ‘Go on tell me all about it.’
I close my eyes, as he lowers the tattoo gun towards me and take deep breaths as I do as I am told.
‘Woo saved my life. I used to be cool but then I had Woo. He is my son, he is two next week, he says bugger a lot… I wee when I sneeze’
A pause, and he continues.
Wow this hurts. But I kinda like it…
‘… but Woo also represents the thousands of people who have supported me and cared for me, total strangers, I may add, since I had him. It also represents my dog Doodle…’
The buzzing stops so abruptly, I am forced to open one eye and peep at him.
He is hunched over my hand, pulling the skin on my wrist back tightly, but looking directly up at me, his eyebrows knotted.
The buzzing starts up again as he shakes his head and goes back to concentrating on scaring me for the rest of my god-damn life.
‘So yeah, and basically’ I continue, trying to remember my flow and closing my eyes again with a wince.
Breathe Lexy, breathe.
‘I tried to kill myself, then I went in to a mental hospital, then my therapist asked me when I was going to take control of my own life, and I realised at that exact moment that it was about time I at least tried to free myself from the chains I have, I suppose kept myself under. I want to live my own life, but I never have. I have always asked others ‘Am I ok?’ without actually asking them? You know? Like if they are in a mood then I automatically assume I have done something wrong, and if people feel bad then I have to make them feel better or it could be me that has upset them and then they may not like me anymore. Like they may confirm to me, by not liking me, that I actually don’t like myself. I have always been so afraid, but I couldn’t tell you exactly what of. You know?’
I carry on regardless as he bumps the needle over my crease. (That sounds way ruder on paper than it does in my head.)
‘Well basically, I have always thought I have been living my own life when really I have always been controlled by these voices in my head.’
The buzzing stops again.
It’s ok though. I kind of expected it to.
I open my eyes.
He is looking at me with an expression I am unable to read.
‘Voices in your head?’
‘Yeah.’ I say, looking back at him, focusing on his mono-brow for courage. ‘Like, Sometimes its my mothers voice and sometimes it’s my fathers voice and sometimes its my own harsh voice, and they are always telling me what I can and can’t do. And I am sick of it.’
The buzzing starts up again and once again I close my eyes.
‘Argh!’ I exclaim before continuing between gritted teeth ‘so Woo represents everything I have been, everything I can be, my son, my dog and a new beginning where if I want a freaking tattoo I will get one and I don’t have to answer to anyone.’
He turns off the stabbing needle gun and rubs the blood off my wrist.
‘It represents control, and me, and my son, and my dog, and that mental health is ok and I am never alone.’
He ignores me as he turns away from me and grabs up for some cellophane.
‘Finished. Do you like it?’
I look down at it, and tilt my head.
That’s my wrist.
It looks weird.
‘No.’ I reply honestly, feeling a bit queasy. Oh shit what have I done?
‘Why?’ he replies.
‘It’s too straight, do some curly bits.’ Oh my god make it better, make it better, holy hell make it better! That looks like a crab pood on me!
The buzzing starts again and I add something.
‘Woo also means, from now on, I am gonna be me, and only me, and the only person who will tell me if I am ok, is me. Or at least, thats the aim.’
The buzzing stops again. He sighs.
‘Do you like it?’
I breath a huge excited breath
‘Yes. I exclaim! I bloody love it! WOO!’ I lift my wrist as I say this.
‘Woo also means Woooooo!’ I add excitedly, lifting my wrist in to his face.
He gets up from his chair and shakes his head.
‘Women’ he mutters as he wraps me up. ‘You’re all as mad as a bag of frogs.’
Whatever! I have a tattoo!!
Woo means ‘Journey.’
Well today it does anyway… tomorrow it may mean destination.
Is it meant to be this itchy though?
Don’t scratch. Don’t scratch. Don’t scratch!
It’s so itchy!!!
Like thrush but on my wrist!!
I have woo on my wrist.