“I am fricking freezing.” I thought as I huddled along the downtown sidewalk last October. It was mid-afternoon on a weekday and although it was early in the month, a chill had swept in and took me by surprise. Crunch. One dry leaf under foot. Crunch. Crunch. A bunch more.
The streets of downtown were lined with cars, suggesting a bustling shopping experience and crowded stores. It made me happy then, and remembering the day does now. I enjoy a busy downtown and my fellow community members shopping small.
I walked into the tattoo shop wondering what they’d think of my argyle sweater, jeans, and brown riding boots. I hoped they wouldn’t take my lack of ink as a sign of disapproval or judgment.
As I entered, I tried to will my eyes to stop widening. On every wall, there were drawings or photographs of the kind of intricate artwork that I could hardly imagine drawing, much less making permanent on any one person.
“May I help you wit’ some thin’?” I heard off to my right.
I looked at the man attached to the voice. He had tattoos everywhere– on his face, neck, and arms. He had piercings too– in his eyebrows, lips, nose, and cheeks. He also had plugs the size VW Bugs.
“Look at his eyes. Only his eyes. Do not stare. It’s rude. Look. At. His. Eyes!” I commanded myself.
“Yes, I’d like to replace two of my cartilage piercings with better posts, the kind that won’t come out.” I voiced.
“No problem,” the man said, “Jim will be right with you.”
Jim, as it turned out, did not have multiple tattoos (that I could see). He also didn’t have multiple facial piercings. He had plugs in his ears.
My “where do I look” anxiety faded away into nothing and I settled into the chair.
Jim walked me through the steps required to replace my cartilage piercings. I elected to replace one that day.
“You must be a pro!” He made note of the fact I didn’t flinch as he inserted a hollow guide needle to secure the new post. My new post was implant grade titanium.
I chatted easily with Jim and told him the stories behind each earring.
When he was done, I thanked him and tipped him generously for his good work. I left and later wrote a five-star review, mentioning Jim by name.
I went back a few weeks later, requesting him, to replace the other stud.
That was last November.
I went back to the shop last week. No longer freezing. This time, I stood on the sidewalk with my husband. I gazed into the window and willed the locked shop door to open. It wouldn’t.
I stared at the hours. The shop should be open.
I stomped and in disbelief exclaimed, “it can’t be closed!” But a quick Google search confirmed that the shop was indeed closed. Contrary to the hours posted on the front door.
I was in luck though. There was another tattoo shop downtown. Coincidentally, it was at the other end of the same street.
“Do you do piercings or just tattoos?” I asked when I called.
“Yes we do.”
I was in luck!
I went in a few hours later. From the outside, this other shop looked sketchy. But once inside, I was impressed. The woman that greeted me was friendly and guided me to the man that would replace my left studs.
He did a great job and replaced my left studs with new silver surgical steel posts.
Every time I leave a tattoo shop I walk out without a tattoo. But I leave with my inner rebel child feeling like she’s had a victory.
While out yesterday, a man commented on my earrings. Completely visible because my hair was up in a French twist. Stating the obvious, he said “you must really like earrings.” Little did he know that each one is representative of a person special to me. I carry a reminder of them at all times. Like a tattoo?
If you read my ears, you’ll see the names of those loved ones, those I keep close. My story’s characters, and one detail I didn’t expect.
I told Jim about that on my first visit. And he listened to the rambling woman who was not so secretly, very nervous, although nothing hurt at all.
And this time, I’m disappointed that Jim couldn’t finish editing the story.
If I happen to see him again, I will have to tell him. And find out where he’s working.
After all, I still have an inner rebel.