What Ink Feels Like

“What does it feel like? Could you maybe compare it to anything you’ve felt before? Anything? Please?”

“It feels like getting raped. By a dragon.”

One of the guys buzzing away in the back chimed in, “male or female?”

“Okayokay… what’s the ink made of?”

“Dead bugs. Mushed-up dead bugs.”

I asked him if he’d ever tattooed behind somebody’s ear.

“Sweetheart, I’ve done everything but the eyelids.”

“Even someone’s—”

“Oh. Oh, yeah.”

I promised him this would be my one and only.

“I don’t know anyone with just one tattoo.” After he jabbed the side of my skull with tiny needles, which tickled and left me feeling high in the aftermath, he said something unexpected; “welcome to the club.”

Did I even want a membership?

“She’s one tough woman. If she can cook, you’d better give her a ring.”

The boy at my side confirmed that I could, indeed cook. I smirked at the black ink-swirl-covered grown man, praising me for fortitude in the shape of a tiny parallelogram behind my right ear.

While he had worked at the lines, I closed my eyes and focused intently on the pain. It crept from around corners and bit me at random. They were really nibbles, though, and the vibrations warmed my neck and face. I cherished the pain. Not as a masochist might, but rather in the way that a mother cherishes the pains that bring her a child.

In the cab ride to the airport to drop him off, he inspected the still-numb area.

“You’re bleeding a bit.”

I blotted a thin line of blood onto my notebook, dated it, and sketched the shape beside the date. Still bathing in the unflappable high after the process, I realized that nobody in the world knew our secret. Nobody has known it until now. I uploaded no photos. I projected nothing to my friends and loose acquaintances. We drove to Newark from Chelsea with legs knotted together.

The space behind my ear radiated heat. I immediately felt a tender loss; the moment when I decided to draw geometry onto my skull had passed. Now I have it forever, along with the splinters of conversation and scent of rubbing alcohol and the taxi trip that followed. Ink only carries those moments and sensations deep into the skin, to the blood, to the organs, where they’re filtered and distilled and bottled and savored until they’re spent. TC mark

image – tibchris


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  • http://twitter.com/geology_rocks Haley F

    I too am a member of the secret tattoo club. I like it when unsuspecting people see me in a bikini, out of my regular dressed up work clothes and gawk at the ships and girls and eagles I have on my sides.

    • Cathy


  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=612928768 Samie Rose

    I love how you talk about your tattoo very ambiguously – makes it all the more sexy.

  • Pryncez Tigreey

    Did you get ink addiction too?

  • http://www.facebook.com/grc15r Gregory Costa

    I’ve always been glad I didn’t go with a tattoo, prior to my weight gain/loss.  With my stretch marks, I think the end result would have been something that resembled continental drift.  

  • Tashiri410

    wow. you… sound totally clueless about tattoos.

    • lkitz

      agreed. sorry but one small tattoo behind your ear does not make you tough and the tattoo artists probably thought you were incredibly ignorant. any tattoo artist will tell you the most annoying question is “will it hurt?” or “what does it feel like?”

      • guest

        Do YOU have a tattoo behind your ear? Do YOU realize there’s nothing but skin and bone? Do YOU know that when you get a tattoo there, your entire skull is pulsating in the same tempo as the needle, and the only noise there is is the sound of the machine?  
        Also, “Will it hurt?” and “What does it fee like?,” are the same questions as a someone would ask prior into going to high school or college. No one knows unless you’ve been there.The only thing I don’t like about TC readers, are users like you, who believe that anything isn’t knew to them is highly irrelevant or beneath them while others are describing their self-discovery/reflection or mulling over their current state in hopes to relate to others who have been in the same situation. 

      • Alison Greenberg


      • Alison Greenberg


      • lkitz

        Maybe check your spelling and grammar before you go on a rant.  “fee” — “feel,”  “knew” — “new,” “same questions as a someone would ask”…? It just makes you look silly.

        I’m just relating my experience from having several tattoos that have taken many hours at a time and were much more painful and involved. If someone is really worried about the pain or feel of it, maybe they should research and consider the decision a bit more before going into the tattoo shop and asking the artist just before they get the tattoo. They get asked the same questions over and over and appreciate when customers are informed and prepared.

        And no, I didn’t say it was irrelevant or “beneath me;'” you don’t know me at all. I’m simply pointing out that one small hidden tattoo that took a couple minutes does not qualify you as an expert on how tattoos feel or make you a “tough” person necessarily. That is my main point– it’s very frustrating when people who have one or two small tattoos that took less than a half hour suddenly become “experts” on them and think it makes them “tough” or “cool.” If you get a tattoo that you really want and has meaning to you personally, you shouldn’t be concerned about the pain or how it makes you seem to other people.

        Speaking of things that “no one knows unless you’ve been there,” has the author given birth? She references the pain of childbirth, so I am just curious as to whether she even has a point of reference.

  • http://twitter.com/jewelstwts ashlee jewel

    “I cherished the pain.”  nice

  • Kobayashi

    How annoyingly vague. What was the point of this piece? I shouldn’t have to ask.

  • http://thefirstchurchofmutterhals.blogspot.com/ mutterhals

    I always thought it was stupid when people said they were addicted to getting tattoos. Then I got a tattoo. Now I am in a perpetual state of planning for the next one. Also, Oliver Reed had a dong tattoo, but that’s neither here nor there. 

  • reena.chohan

    It’s hard to explain the kind of pain you feel while getting inked and you managed to do a pretty good job.

  • jaja

    Parallelogram is the new triangle?

  • guest

    “I cherished the pain. Not as a masochist might, but rather in the way that a mother cherishes the pains that bring her a child.”
    Right… because you would know… How are readers supposed to relate to the pains of child birth?

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