***Contains graphic images***
Last Friday evening I finished a sleeve tattoo that began in 2016. I had designed a psychedelic black and white dreamscape of my favorite parts of the French Quarter (where I left a little piece of my soul) both future and past. That took somewhere in the neighborhood of 12 hours for about 1/4 of my arm, from shoulder blade to mid bicep. I figured, eventually I’d finish the entirety, no rush. Then, on 10/23/19 a slip while simply cooking dinner turned into an accident resulting in 3rd degree burns on my tattooed right arm; from shoulder to wrist.
Fucking gnarly. I had no idea what pain was before that. What followed was 3 surgeries in 12 days. Skin grafts. Really hard drugs that took pain from a nine to a four. A four was bearable, two was bliss. A month in bed and six more lasers surgeries after that. Which were fun comparatively speaking. By my third laser, the scarring was noticeably better; but by 6 it had gotten as good as it would get. Which was still pretty rough.
So 365 days after the accident, I began the sleeve completion on my right arm. I chose an all female tattoo shop 13 Arrows and a badass artist who knew that the design had to maximize both coverage and color. The goal was beauty, restored, if a darker version than the original, untarnished flesh. I’d like to say I was optimistic, but I wasn’t. I knew it could have been a lot worse; but after a year of unadulterated trauma, wearing a compression sleeve 24/7 and surgery every 6 weeks, I mostly felt like a circus freak and saw no end to that in sight.
I love being wrong. There’s no way you’d ever know the ink covered scars now unless I told you.
The weird part is, that’s exactly what I find myself doing. I get so many compliments on the tattoo, it comes tumbling out. And I’m not quite sure what that means. Spending another 25 hours to cover a scar that I now voluntarily talk about. There’s some haphazard lesson or tragic irony there, just beyond my reach.