top of page


Artwork by Michelle Dong, staff artist

The sound is what gets you first. That low pitched buzz like the angry cacophony of a million insects ricocheting through the air like bullets, desperate to sting: bzzzzzzzzzzzz.

You wait, wondering if this is a good idea. Wondering if, in a few years, this sound will still ring in your ears as you slather cream on your skin because you’ve grown old and gray, and the wrinkles have warped your pretty picture into glitchy lines and shapes. You’ve already begun to sweat. The light fixtures feel like dozens of small suns burning down at you from the ceiling, the walls. There are sweat stains on the back of your dress, the collar, your underarms. The drawings and photographs framed around the room stare down at you, condescending.

Your grandmother had said not to do it. She’d said God had made your body beautiful, why taint your skin, why mar the melanin. If God had intended you to walk around with flowers printed on your flesh, He would’ve put them there Himself. Besides, look at all those people walking around with their limbs ruined by artists who don’t even know how to draw. They got what they deserved. Ask them and they’ll show you, regret in their eyes, all those alien-like faces etched onto forearms, the names of ex-lovers peeking above collarbones, cartoon characters botched on kneecaps, and the misspelled names of K-pop idols singed across the curve of a calf.

The buzzing stops. A woman rises from the chair, pays her dues, and leaves. Your moment has arrived. The chair beckons you, “Come forward.”

You sit. The leather is uncomfortable, peeling in places, the foam beneath making you itch. You begin to sweat as the person you’ve entrusted, the man with a weapon in one hand and your fate in the other, sits beside you. He places a thin piece of paper on your wrist. You’ve never noticed how vulnerable wrists can be. So many veins visible through thin skin, so much blood flowing, not knowing that soon it might begin to drip.

He removes the paper, leaving behind a wreath of blue daisies. He brings the tattoo gun forward and then starts to trace. The pain is intense at first, then that same buzzing sound begins to dull your senses. You sit there, watching the needles bounce and inject ink into the fibers that were once another color.

It happens fast. The man rises, eyes his work, smiles. You look down and then begin to laugh.

Your first tattoo sits on your wrist like a crown jewel. You can almost see your grandmother’s furious glare and then, the underlying glee, when she sees that the flowers on your skin are her namesake and tattooed there in her honor. You love it, smiling through the tears collecting at the corners of your eyes. Maybe it’s the pain or maybe you’re relieved. Whatever it is, you don’t regret this, not anymore.

Because if God had made your body beautiful, then you have just made it yours.

32 views0 comments


bottom of page