Everything Happened | vol. 169


I didn’t realize until a few weeks ago that we were approaching the end of the decade, because every year ends the same way, and because I still think it’s 2017 sometimes.

Ten years ago, in 2009, I lived in Columbus with my friends on one side of a 1920s duplex. A “half double” as we called it. When the tenants on the other side moved out, we alerted more of our friends and they moved in. My rent was….are you ready?….$300. Every Thursday night, we had Dinner Club, a wine-drenched theme potluck that lasted into the next morning. We alternated which side of the house hosted. I worked five shifts a week waiting tables which only worked out to around 25 hours, fewer during slow weeks. That time in my life can be easily romanticized, but I was broke and sad, restless and bored. In the fall of that year, I got a tattoo on my chest.

I’d go on to get other tattoos, and I still plan to get more, but for the past two years, I’ve been getting that chest tattoo removed. My friend Daniel dropped dead in February 2018 and after that, every personal truth seemed up for reexamination. I started performing at storytelling nights around town. I’d never done that before because I was a writer, not a performer. I got a spray tan for my friend’s wedding. I’d never done that before because I was a serious person, not a clown. And I got a consultation to have my tattoo removed.

I’d never allowed myself to consider removal because it felt un-punk or like a betrayal of my younger self. I didn’t hate my tattoo, or even dislike it, I just liked the idea of no longer having it. That had never seemed like enough before. But now Daniel was in Mt. Olive Cemetery and someday I’d be gone, too, whether I was a serious person or not. Why live with something when you prefer the idea of not living with it? You only get one body.

Removal is expensive and it takes a long time. The laser heats up the ink particles until they shatter into tiny fragments and get flushed away by your immune system over the next few weeks. Most professionals tell you to expect to need 10-12 treatments for 95% removal and recommend 4-6 weeks between treatments for best results. The area will be covered in blisters for a week following each session. While you’re in the removal process, rather than a crisp tattoo, you will have a tattoo that is rapidly getting worse in quality. It will look like a sun-bleached billboard. You have to want to remove the tattoo enough to be willing to endure, for a few years, a shittier looking version of it.

I’m not sure that I knew the extent of what I was signing on for when I started. Grief felt like a fugue state, and I can hardly remember deciding to do it. One day it was just happening to me. I became pregnant with Jane a few weeks after my first treatment, and took a break from the whole process during my pregnancy. There’s not much data on whether the ink particles are small enough to pass into breast milk. For the first six months of Jane’s life, I was nursing a lot and didn’t pursue treatment. By the end of this summer, I felt ready to get back to work on it. I feared if I waited much longer I could face a third summer with a body part that looked “under construction.”

I joke that I’m the only person who has regretted getting a tattoo removed. Because it’s annoying! Now that I’m in a rural location, I have to take time off work and drive 45 minutes to Annapolis to get it done. I have to take care of the wound afterwards and try not to scratch it. It itches! Do you know how much responsibility I already have in my life? My four-year-old still is not great at wiping and then there’s the actual baby who can’t do shit for herself! I don’t really regret it at all, though. Not getting it, not subjecting myself to removal, and certainly not all the life lived in the meantime with a patch of skin stuck in draft form.

The tattoo was of a cornucopia. Back then, I thought of it as a reminder of the abundance in my life. I felt like such a failure ten years ago that it was easy for me to lose sight of how good I have always had it. I don’t have to remind myself of the abundance in my life now. I see it all around me, even as the old symbol is crushed to bits and swept away in my lymph fluid.

yr mate,

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