I’ve wanted tattoos since I fell in love with a biker on the Tilt-A-Whirl when I was about eight years old.
My first was a disaster. Meant to be a moon lady inside the sun, it looked like a hairy eyeball. When I got around to covering it up, the artist, Joseph Dunmire, talked me (rather easily) into a much larger tattoo.
“It’ll change your life, a tattoo like this,” he said.
He was right. The cover-up tattoo is a shoulder-to-shoulder spread across my upper back. It’s the Morrigen, a Celtic warrior goddess. A raven flies out of her wind-twisted, red hair and she looks right at you, from my back, with an aloof gaze. People ask me about her frequently. Strangers sometimes touch her face, forgetting her skin is also mine.
I love tattoos for many things, but the impermanent permanence is part of it. Tattoos can fade or blur. Changes to the skin – aging, scars, life – can alter their appearance. But removing them is a difficult process. It’s a commitment to get one.
And it’s painful. Ritualistic.
Also, expensive, if you want a good one, an original, a work of art.
I’m getting my eighth this fall. If all goes as planned, it will be the first of several related tattoos. This one will be a fox, followed up with other animals – not my favorite animals, necessarily, but animals that have appeared in the sort of dreams I find hard to forget.
In other words, very personal. And very much on display.
All my tattoos mean something to me. The stories might not mean much to you if I wrote them here. They aren’t personal-universal in the way a short or flash story is, or a poem, or a song. They are stories I tell myself about myself. And it’s fitting they die with the canvas.
I don’t mean for that to be morbid.
After all, I hope for a longer life for my fiction stories, the ones made only of words.
Perhaps it’s simply that it’s appropriate for someone with a lifelong love of stories to want to illustrate herself.