Lit Life

Bookish Ink- My First Tattoo


I have always been an admirer of tattoos. The thought of picking something to carry with you forever, finding an image that would help explain to people just who I was, having a visual reminder of my core feelings. I didn’t see many tattoos around me; my grandfather had a blurry and faded “Angie” on a banner over a heart on his forearm that I would stare at, fascinated. It rippled as the muscles under his skin flexed and relaxed.

Growing up, I can remember searching the world around me for deeper meaning. I always felt that if I could find the seam and peel back a layer, like the protective film over a new phone screen, I could find real magic. Books lead me to believe I just wasn’t in the right place at the right time- it seemed so likely that this could happen to me. I read Matilda and waited for the objects around me to move. I devoured Harry Potter and found new power in sticks picked up in the backyard. These were private games I played, too sure that I was different, alien for wanting to unearth deeper meanings from ordinary objects. I pocketed lucky rocks and coveted crystals and polished stones in gift shops, unsure of how to articulate why possessing them, holding them, would satisfy me.

Next door to my childhood home was an old barn. It was positively unsafe, with peeling paint and the faint smell of old hay and animals. It bordered an area of my own backyard that didn’t grow grass, so like any children with energy to burn, we made it a dig site. We found old pieces of broken ceramics, bits of old tack, and pretty stones.  I was always halfway sure there would be something truly fantastic at the bottom, however far down that might be.

In the same manner that I imbued deeper meanings into ordinary objects, my first tattoo was picked carefully, from location (inner wrist) to size (small enough to cover with a wide bracelet) to a small hint at deeper meaning (a star). I have hidden Flynning* depths, people. I got my first tattoo at 24, and picked a fountain pen because I think they are forgotten and lovely and make me feel fancy when I write with them. Favorite writing implement was my jumping-off point, and I picked a word to round out the shape (Truth), and asked for a star as the breather hole. I didn’t do a lot of research on tattoo artists before I got inked, which is not a great idea. Instead, I asked a friend where he had gotten his done, and booked an appointment.

I explained my idea to the artist, too nervous to catch his name, and provided a few pictures of a fountain pen nib, understanding that not everyone is intimately familiar with things I like. He gave me a funny look, but promised to have a few designs for me to pick from later that week. I went back excited and nervous, only to be shown a design the size of my entire forearm. I must have blanched, because he quickly scaled it down, returning with something that would stretch comfortably in the hollow of my small wrist. He positioned the template, and took me to the back where the needles were.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but while it hurt, it wasn’t unbearable. I felt my whole body get warm in response to the pain, but I didn’t flinch or jump. I stayed as still as possible, trying to act comfortable in order to feel comfortable. My artist asked me a few questions about the design, but “I’m a writer in my heart, and always write with the hope of getting at or uncovering the truth” left him nonplussed.

About half an hour later, it was done. I enjoyed watching him blend black, white, and gray inks, shadowing and shading in ways I couldn’t follow upside-down (nor right side up, honestly). I felt as though I had accomplished something, like adding a layer of ink under my skin had peeled back the transparent film to let me start to discover something wonderful, deep down in my core. I had unearthed something and let it see the light.

*We use famous author names instead of swearwords, a la John Green on Crash Course.

Lit & Love,

Sarah Signature

Want more original prose? Check out  An Open Letter to Abandoned Books

Feeling like some poetry? Check out Digital Breadcrumbs !

3 thoughts on “Bookish Ink- My First Tattoo

  1. I really enjoyed reading this. You write beautifully. I love that you have a tattoo with such meaning. I have been searching for a tattoo idea to tie in my love of books, but haven’t found the right one yet. When I see it, I will just know. Great post 🙂


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