A few hours ago, I made a mistake. I realized this while waiting for my tattoo artist to come downstairs with the design for my next piece. After she left, it was hard to concentrate on mundane things like looking at the people walking by on the street because I was caught in trauma’s sticky web. I bounced from one soft corner of my brain to another reviewing, in lightening speed, the potential side-effects of my mix-up and how to lessen them. Would I have to cancel my trip? Was it really that big of a deal? How could I have messed this up?
I was thankful that my design was taking a while. I was also thankful for the loud woman with brassy hair and short shorts who entered the shop seconds after my artist went upstairs. As she described the complex tattoo she wanted to the increasingly withdrawn guy at the desk, I sunk my eyes into her white legs and sockless feet. I wondered about the “fiancé” she mentioned and what he looks like. Was this marriage #2? I bounced around some more while waiting for the flashing light that held my fate.
There would be no yelling, no blaming, no holding up of historical sins for all to see, only measured acceptance. More than that, there was love. Yes, I had made a mistake, but it wasn’t the end of the world. It just meant that our plans would shift. I was ok, safe and still loved. How phenomenal! I felt embarrassed for the scars that robbed me of this kind of care and grateful for the work I have done to be able to receive this love.
We all have our shit, but we don’t all learn how to claw our way out. That’s how it feels, like you are using your actual self, claws fashioned of your own hardship and grit, to haul the heavy stuff up to the surface where it can be released. So many feelings – the heated belly of anxiety, the flicker of pride, the anticipation of new ink- were whirring around as I walked up the stairs. My last stop before sitting in the chair is always the bathroom, where I take my last pee and ready myself for what is to come.
Streams of sound layer the room
The male artist talks to his client
The male artist and my artist talk
Heavy music plays loudly
Alongside the TV’s blare
I silence it all with a hidden smile
For Leonard lives inside my ears
I know all the words, all the pauses
Broken thrones and bare moonlight
Beam through as I breathe in and out
Pain is essential to the passage
Into a newly marked body
Remembering is important too
All the feelings inherited
The deeds blindly repeated
The sounds cascade around my head
While tears stream inside my mask
No one can tell and if they can it’s ok
This is a place of transformation
My tattoo cocoon
After the first 75 minutes I begin to sputter
The pain is too much for even Leonard to numb
Landscape details and sky are all that remains
It’s better to do in two sessions my artist says
A compassionate, wise response
Just what I need in this tender moment
I walk home feeling hungry and strong
I also want to cry and release the residual pain
Earlier, I posted something about feeling the pain to heal it
Did I know that I would need this message?
Probably, such is the oracle of trauma
Which resides in the damndest of corners
Waiting to be summoned
I walk by the modest houses on my street
The clapboard ones with poorly constructed additions
My eyes fall upon a group of lilac coloured flowers with no petals
Standing upright on their green stalk in groups of threes
Like tiny castles gathered over their dominion
In the amber sun I am reminded
Nature knows, she always knows
As I hurry home , I seem to notice everything:
The woman and her two small kids
Two strangers in the bus stand, one of whom holds a subway sandwich in her right hand
The woman with the flappy blouse who keeps trying to control her shirt in the wind
The backwards floral designs of the church windows; what does it look like inside?
The woman watering her front yard who apologizes for leaving the hose on the sidewalk
The large white dog that pulled his owner hard in the evening sun
The slim woman talking loudly on her phone while her dog dutifully chugs beside her
The pretty glisten of the reflective lights on a parked car
The six matching trees in the front yard of the Berkeley apartment complex
Such is the gloshing (which is not a word, I know), wild chemistry of life, my life.