July 14, 2012
After we’d exited the Studio B tour – WITHOUT my honky-tonk piano (I should add) – Dawn and I did a quick run-through of the Country Music Hall of Fame, which has to be one of the most gorgeous pieces of architecture out there before rushing off to get my peacock tattoo arm sleeve, of which I was now wildly vacillating about putting on my body.
I learned two things there:
a) Taylor Swift has a kick-ass guitar
2) The curator of the Country Music Hall of Fame frowns upon one LICKING aforementioned guitar, even after you explain that it “seemed like a good idea at the time.”
We sorta sped through the museum so that we could make the drive back to the tiny house on the semi-frightening road. We got back to the car, stowed carefully in the Hilton’s parking garage and made our way back to the tattoo shop, the gorge rising as I couldn’t quite recall WHAT, exactly, the tattoo would look like:
What was I DOING? Was I making another tremendous mistake? What if I’d actually wanted something else so people didn’t call me “Bird Girl” for the rest of my days? What kind of nickname is “Bird Girl,” anyway?
Dawn’s GPS decided to play hardball and direct us through routes that were all closed for construction. I was about ready to sink my teeth into the damn thing and make it my bitch, but Dawn handily wrestled it back from me before I could do any real damage. Fear makes you do weird things and I’d begun to question everything from whether or not I should get a tattoo or if I should date the guy sitting on the side of the road drinking what appeared to be malt liquor from a brown paper bag.
The tattoo shop – Archangel Tattoo – and neighborhood had finally, after a long, surreptitious and annoying drive, appeared before us, and, quite frankly, appeared a lot less scary in the light of day (but, really, so do I). Ready for my 4PM appointment, I steeled my nerves and walked into the shop, Dawn following behind, prepared to push me in front of the adorable dude with the twang so I could – at the very least – see if I really did, in fact, want a new tattoo, or if I was simply a walking divorce cliche.
The tattoo guy, Terry, appeared before me to show me what he’d drawn up.
“It’s really fucking big,” he twanged to me, like it was some sort of challenge.
“Fucking perfect,” I beamed. He’d taken what I’d wanted, researched it and drew up a peacock arm sleeve that would match my phoenix flawlessly. I felt, for the first time in weeks, as though I was exactly where I was supposed to be. A thousand pound weight dropped from my shoulders as I smiled a genuine smile for the very first time that day.
“I just need to redraw it for the right arm,” he said. “You guys wanna take a walk and go grab a drink or something? There’s a store about three feet away in that direction,” he drawled as he pointed vaguely east.
“Sure,” Dawn and I agreed.
We trudged out into the late afternoon heat, trying to avoid the raindrops that were falling lazily down upon us.
“I feel like this is something we needed to do – like we were supposed to do it,” Dawn announced as we dodged rain drops. “I feel really good about this.”
I smiled – knowing exactly what she meant.
Armed with a bottle of Diet Pepsi (apparently the South has 47 flavors of sweet tea with absolutely no diet Coke in sight)(also: I’ve never seen so many flavors of pig skin on display like people EAT that shit or something), we marched back through the lazy raindrops and waited.
“Come on back,” my tattoo artist called, leading me back to a room decorated from top to bottom with different types of local art, Lynyrd Skynyrd lazily singing about Tuesday “being gone with the wind,” the comforting buzz of the tattoo gun being used on another customer soothing my nerves. I noted on the wall that I’d happened to be lucky enough to be tattooed by Terry, who’d been winning tattoo awards left and right, or at least, that’s what the plaques on the wall stated. I suppose he could’ve made them himself, but he didn’t seem the type.
Carefully, he lined my arm with the peacock he’d drawn, the purple outline clearly stating that I would be getting not a half-arm sleeve tattoo, but 3/4 of a sleeve.
And thus I began a new chapter in my life – one that would involve taking big risks, learning to lose the fear I’d acquired through my marriage, while reminding myself that while I may feel as though I’m a motherfucking coward, it is not true. I will be brave enough to rebuild my life and do it with grace, dignity while allowing my freak flag to flap in the breeze – there’s no shame in being me.
Gratuitous – yet pointless – shoe shot!
After what seemed to be about five minutes – five minutes of mild-to-extreme pain, let me be clear here – my tattoo guy drawled, “I’m done with the outline – let’s go take a break.”
Out to the quaint front porch we went, where we sat in rocking chairs, rocking slowly back and forth, enjoying the sunset. I asked him the question I ask everyone who has been doing a particular job for a long while:
“What’s the worst thing that anyone’s asked you to tattoo on them?”
He chuckled for a good long while before answering, “I don’t know – most people want bullshit tattoos. I can only do so much with those.”
I nodded, having seen a fair number of particularly awful tattoo ideas. Of special note is the one tattoo I saw that had been clearly done out of some guy’s basement, in which Calvin (from Calvin and Hobbs) was peeing on the word, “X Wife.” Way to keep it classy, people.
Soon enough, darkness began to replace the waning sunlight and it was time, once again, to go back to The Chair. The tattoo pain was somewhere between my back – which barely hurt – to my feet – which hurt like a motherfucker, so while I wasn’t jumping to get back in the chair, I knew that he knew his shit and that my tattoo looked FULL of the Awesome.
I steeled myself for the pain as he began to shade the outline in.
By this time, I was clutching Dawn’s hand like it was a life-raft and trying to remember to breathe. I hadn’t eaten properly in two weeks and while I’m not prone to fainting, the pain had gone from “ouch” to “fucking ouch.” But hey, this was the only birthday present I’d be getting – aside from my “John C. Mayer’s Greatest Hits,” so I gritted my teeth and tried to go to “my place.”
I’d lost track of how many versions of “Free Bird” we’d heard throughout the hours (by this time, I knew it was “hours” and not “minutes,” because my arm now hurt like a motherfucker) when, once again, he announced that it was time for a break. Back to the rocking chairs we went, where customers ingoing and outgoing stopped to chat with me about my tattoo. Apparently, NashVegas doesn’t get a lot of girls requesting sleeve tattoos, which, SURPRISING AS FUCK.
By this point, I’d started dreading Das Chair – while my migraines have given me an incredible pain tolerance (THANKS, MIGRAINES!), I could now feel each individual needle as it went into my skin. I’d have made an appointment to finish that fucker the following day (my birthday), but the shop was closed. So it was now or motherfucking never.
It was about halfway through the coloring of my now beautiful tattoo that it hit me:
This was my only birthday present.
This was one of the last things I’d be able to buy for myself as I was going to have to start finding ways to make money so I could become self-sufficient and move out.
I was getting a divorce.
It was over – my future was a black question mark of uncertainty.
And through the physical pain, my emotional pain began to burble out. While I consider 9-10PM now my “crying hour,” I hadn’t expected that getting a tattoo in a shop full of big dudes would evoke tears. But come they did. It was like a torrential downpour as I performed my favorite party trick, “The Ugly Cry,” to an entire room. Oddly, I wasn’t even mortified – it just felt right to be able to mourn the “never will’s” of my life.
Soon, it was all over but the crying.
And that is how I will approach my new life, in the hopes that one day, someone may put on my tombstone: she was brave.