When my friend Maya told me she wanted a tattoo, I prayed she meant permanent eyebrows.
I personally dislike the look of tattoos and think they should be outlawed along with body piercing and high waist jeans. The problem with tattoos is that once people do it there’s no stopping them—it’s sort of like losing your virginity.
Despite my misgivings, I told Maya I’d go with her to get a tattoo and there were two good reasons why. One, she was my friend and I felt it was important to support her in this milestone event. Two, I heard they gave out free candy.
Given that this was my first visit to a tattoo parlor, I spent hours debating what to wear. I settled on a pleated wool skirt, cashmere sweater and pearls. Granted, it wasn’t a tough look, but the only black leather I owned was a holy bible from the Holiday Inn. Instead, I acquired some edginess by studying up on ghetto vernacular so I wouldn’t sound out of place.
We drove to Starbright Tattoo studio on a Friday afternoon. I tried to make conversation to help put Maya at ease.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” I asked. “Because if you’re having second thoughts I can turn around.”
“I’m sure,” she replied.
“So, did you hear about the Caucasian guy who thought he got the Chinese symbol for courage tattooed on his bicep, and it turned out to mean ‘chicken?’” I asked.
“Look, I’m not changing my mind. I’ve wanted to do this for a long time. My tattoo’s going to look just like this,” she said, placing her hand proudly on her chest.
“You want a pair of double D’s tattooed on your body?”
“I meant the tree of life,” she said holding up a charm dangling from her neck, a simple trunk with lots of swirly branches. “And, two stars above the tree will represent each of my kids. It will go right here,” she added, pointing just below her navel.
I winced. “Wouldn’t it be less painful to just wear the necklace everyday?”
“Just stick to driving, Lisa.”
We turned off the busy highway and into the parking lot. We both took a deep breath and opened the glass door. “My home girl’s here for a tat,” I announced.
“Hello ladies. Gordo will be with you in a moment,” said a gentleman with a silver hoop the size of a coconut protruding from his nostrils.
Maya consulted with Gordo while I chatted it up with nose ring guy. “Oooh, Snickers bars! This is dope, man, “ I said, reaching into the dragon-skeleton candy bowl.
A few minutes later Maya returned. “I changed my mind.”
“What a relief!” I said, and hugged her.
“I’m still getting the tattoo Lisa,” she said. “I decided to get it on my lower back so I don’t have to see it getting done.”
I could relate. There are certain things in life that no one should ever be subjected to witnessing: like tattoos, childbirth, and nursing home residents eating Jell-O.
“Even better,” I lied. “A tramp stamp!”
Minutes later she was face down on the table, barebacked and swabbed. Black ink spilled from her back as Gordo skillfully maneuvered the tattoo gun across her virgin skin. Maya grimaced every time the needle edged near her spine.
I took video footage but it was hard to hold the camera and eat snickers bars at the same time.
Within thirty minutes Maya had been deflowered and grown a tree. She looked behind her in the mirror and admired her new work of body art. Then she thanked Gordo and paid as casually as if she had just bought a roll of postage stamps.
“Take care ladies,” Gordo said as we walked out the door.
“Peace out dog,” I yelled back.
On the drive home I asked, “Well, how do you feel?”
“I feel happy that I finally did it. I only have one regret.”
“The tramp stamp?” I asked.
“No, the driver.”
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