"When are we getting our tattoos?" Scott asks whenever we find ourselves hipster-watching.
"I don't knoooooooow!" I screech. "Are we really?"
We almost get inked on our cross country road trip in February, but we don't really know what we want to get and that's perhaps the worst time to get a tattoo (aside from when drunk and/or brainwashed by an abusive lover or cult). Luckily, we are never tempted into spontaneous tattooing for all the parlors we pass from the East Coast to California are too intimidating to enter and we run away giggling like peeping toms ducking below whorehouse windows.
Then one day Scott meets a tattoo artist. His name is Tim and he's opening up a new shop the next town over. Orange hair, freckled skin covered in colored images, twenty years experience and a delightful personality, Tim is like a beacon, a lighthouse with a swooping green light and an ocean front tattoo parlor. If this is really going to happen, Tim is our man.
Scott would like a tattoo to replace his wedding band. His falls off too easily and he stopped wearing it months ago. We've never really been the jewelry wearing types. I wear my engagement ring for its history and shiny blue stone, but besides that and the occasional bracelet, I don't wear much bling or metal at all.
Finger tattoos, Tim explains over the phone, are never really a good idea. Due to the texture of the skin, they tend to fade and distort quickly.
I'd like a small feather tattoo on my wrist, I tell Scott. A reminder to let things go, stay light and not be so heavy hearted all the time. Scott likes my idea. We decide to get matching feathers to replace our wedding bands. We'll be like blood brothers only ink brothers and not brothers but husband and wife. "I can't wait to regret this decision." Scott says smiling. He researches owls and learns of a couple traits he thinks are much like us. Owls, he explains, are not very attached to their homes (unless they have owl babies). They focus solely on whatever goal and task is at hand, letting go of all other distractions. We too prefer vagabondage (for we are still without babies), and we are, it seems, in constant flight toward our own small fury targets of happiness.
"Don't tell anyone in our families that we're getting tattoos!" I beg Scott. "I don't want them trying to convince us not to get them."
Three weeks later, on a warm evening in July, we sit in the new studio of gray walls, flat screen televisions and dentist like tools and pay Tim to puncture permanent pigment into our pale skin. The shop space, once a dance studio, has a wall made entirely of mirrors, allowing the day's fading light to bounce. Behind the building is the bike path and next door is Sophia's, a pirogi shop. So it's not exactly inside a lighthouse, but the river is close enough. To entertain and distract us, Tim plays episodes of the comedy show, Portlandia. When Scott becomes weary of the electric needle etching the underside of his arm, Tim takes off his gloves and retrieves him a warm can of iced tea. After two Portlandia episodes, Scott's feather is complete, raised and black, hallowed by pinked skin. It's my turn. Tim replaces the needles, gloves and ink. I sit and point to where I'd like the stencil placed. It is pressed and pulled. Then the buzz of the vibrating needle begins to hum. It feels like stinging bees and staples somehow, but I conceal my discomfort. Tim is so alert, however that he stops to checks in with me when I look for Scott's hand to hold. "Do you want a break?" I'm fine, I tell him, knowing this small tattoo will not take him very long.
Later that night, while eating vegetable burritos and watching Battlestar Galactica, we take turns saying, "This" (pointing to our wrist) "is permanent!"
"Everything is permanent." Scott says. "And that's what I love about this."