You wake up at 6:30 in the morning. You programmed your phone to remind you that you will have a good day. Over the years, you've become accustomed to going through your day feeling terrible, uninspired, and wanting to hurt yourself the way you used to. But for some reason, you believe it. You believe the message you told your phone to tell you every morning.
You decide to text your cousin after your lunch break and make an appointment to get a tattoo. You have been thinking about getting tattooed for a while now -- it's been a year since you got your last one -- and you finally have the means to get another one. When you finally arrive at the shop, you have an idea of how you want it to look on your arm. But after some careful convincing you go with another idea: to enlarge it and put it on your sternum. You've never really liked the way you looked without a shirt on, so initially you feel uncomfortable. You think about your past and the things you used to do to yourself in private and you're worried one of them will ask questions if they notice the marks. You throw that thought away and decide to get it done, anyway.
You don't really realize how large it's actually going to be until you start taking pictures of yourself laying on your back. And even then, you still don't really get it. Your cousin laughs an excited laugh. He's happy that you decided to put it on your torso instead of your arm. You get that nervous thought you always get before you get a tattoo. You think about how bad it will hurt, you think about changing your mind, but your pride doesn't let you.
"I've already traveled all this way, I can't really back out now." You think to yourself.
"Ready?" he asks while he sits down next you, tattoo machine in hand. You nod. And it begins.
The first 45 minutes, you feel invincible. It doesn't feel like anything. You remember that you have a pretty high threshold for pain. You joke and say, "this isn't that bad" and he tells you not to talk. You nod and continue to lay there like a stone. After a while, it becomes hard to focus. You try not to grind your teeth -- you have a problem with that -- so you move your fingers through the air as if you're trying to catch the molecules floating in the air. You control your breathing and you keep your mouth shut. You hold your phone in one hand and start texting all of your friends, hoping they can keep your mind off the pain you're currently experiencing. It doesn't help. Your chest starts to feel like a bowl of meat. You are unsure if you still have skin and you try not to laugh at yourself because of course you still have skin. You start realizing that you can't really turn back anymore and you begin to accept the pain. You accept it the same way you accepted all of the pain you've ever received in your life thus far. You begin to smile. He breaks the silence and asks, "you alright over there?" You nod a reassuring and confident yes and say,
"I finally feel alive."
After you're finished. You feel sore but complete. He hands you a beer and you smack your bottle against his as if you had just come out victorious in a fight, a battle, or a game of basketball. You stare at yourself in the mirror for 15 minutes and smile at yourself. You haven't smiled at yourself in a long time. "These are marks I can live with", you mutter to yourself. You remember the marks you made yourself years ago. And you can see them clear as day and think, I should cover those up. And that's when he breaks your train of thought and says, "if you're up to it, we can do the rest of your torso." You smile and laugh and agree wholeheartedly. You take a seat down next to him and make your next appointment.