I currently have three tattoos and one that’s healing. The design contains yellow, which means I’ll have to get that touched up at least once before I can call this one good and healed. My first one, I got when I was eighteen. I was new to the whole tattoo thing and taking care of it was a wonderful and new experience. My second one, I got seven years after my first one, so it was like having a tattoo for the first time. I forgot what to do. I texted my tattoo artist, saying, “What the hell do I do?” and “Is this normal?!” My third one, I got a couple months later, but it was with white ink, which I’ve never had before. Dealing with that was new territory. Again, “What the hell do I do?” and “Is this normal?!” Now, with my fourth one, which is the biggest one I’ve had yet, and the first one I’ve had with color, I’ve realized there’s a pattern which goes a little something like this:
1. My thoughts thy day of the tattoo and during 90% of getting tattooed: “I’m so excited! I’m getting a tattoo! This is so much fun. Kimmie is fun. This hurts way less than I was expecting.”
2. I’ve been getting my tattoos done later and later, simply because that’s when Kimmie’s schedule matches mine. So, basically, it’s midnight and there’s still a solid twenty minutes left, my brain and attitude gives a hard, “Okay, I’m done. Anytime you want to finish up.”
3. And then we are done, and Kimmie says, “You know the drill.” I don’t know the drill. I’ve forgotten everything you told me from the last time you tattooed me. I’m like a person on an infomercial. I shouldn’t be left to my own devices. I don’t even know how I’m going to get home.
4. For the first day, I feel like a sitcom father in the first five minutes of taking care of his child he otherwise ignores while the wife leaves to someplace unreachable by phone, like the store. This isn’t so bad. I can do this. I don’t know what everyone’s complaining about. I put on the lotion so that my tattoo doesn’t dry out. I feel very adult in my rebellious behavior.
5. But then the fact that you let someone stab you thousands of times with a needle starts to catch up with you. Your body starts to heal and that’s not ever pretty looking.
6. You tell yourself that you aren’t going to panic. Kimmie still thinks you know what you’re doing. She’s never going to tattoo you again if you freak out the next day. And I hold it together, mostly by getting rid of any dignity I had. I’ll roll that one pant leg up and walk around like a gangster if need be. I’ll set hourly alarms. Don’t let the tattoo dry out? That’s what she said, right? Done.
7. I can’t do the thing though. I never took Anatomy and Physiology. It’s been thee days and I’m panicking hard. I keep thinking this is it. I’m going to get a serious infection. They’re going to have to amputate. I’m going to have to look at my parents and tell them I’m that child. The shame will be unbearable. So, I send a super casual text to Kimmie, “Hey. Not to sound like I’m panicking or anything… but could you look at this picture of the tattoo and tell me if I’m dying?” No response.
8. Then I make the mistake of showing my boss the tattoo. I can’t escape it. The tattoo hurts because essentially it’s an open wound. Anything that hurts on my body makes me a whiner-baby. Yet, the moment I show my boss, she instantly fuels my panic-fire by asking if it should look like that. Is it infected? I DON’T KNOW. I’M FREAKING OUT AND KIMMIE HASN’T RETURNED MY TEXT.
9. FINALLY, after five days, it’s a day I work with Kimmie. She looks at the tattoo and tells me and my boss that everything’s fine. There’s the perfect amount of lotion on the tattoo. I realized that I never told my boss the elephant was supposed to be yellow with white polka dots, which is why she thought it was hella infected. I can breathe for a moment.
10. Although, I’m still a little skeptical. I have to wait another two weeks for it to be fully healed before Kimmie will retouch the yellow, sending me done another crazed cycle of neurotically watching my body heal itself after I’ve done artistic damage to it. But in the end, like my other tattoos, I’ll really love and be glad I got it. I’m already planning my fifth and sixth tattoo.