The first time I remember wanting a tattoo was in the summer of 2000. Nine year old me was cuddled up in a big, comfortable, leather chair, reading the newest installment in his favorite book series, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. The dark mark, a tattoo like marking on the forearm of death eaters, plays a pivotal role in that fourth book, and as I sat there reading, I remember thinking that I wanted that tattoo. I may not have been influenced by violent video games or movies, but JK Rowling started corrupting me from an early age. Fast forward to January 19, 2009, Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It was a cool Winter’s day in Little Rock, Arkansas and 18 year old me was out of school that day, so I decided to honor the civil rights activist by getting my first tattoo that day.
I told you the dark mark was the first tattoo I ever wanted, and while I got it eventually, it’s not the first one I got. At some point in high school I was introduced to Edgar Allen Poe, not personally, but rather his work. I was in awe of his poetry and fascinated by his short stories; he became my favorite writer. I was really into literature then, still am today, so I decided I wanted my first tattoo to be something literary, a permanent reminder of my dream to become a writer. I spent hours looking through tattoo designs and finally found the perfect one, the word “nevermore” shaped to look like a raven, you know like the poem “The Raven” by Poe. Once I saw that design, there was no question that it would be the one I was getting. I’d done my research on the best places to get tattoos in Little Rock and 7th street was clearly the best, so a little after one on Monday afternoon, I made my downtown to 7th street.
I don’t remember the name of the man who tattooed me but he looked like the typical tattoo artist you might see in a movie, or you know, in real life; bigger guy, bearded, and tattoos all along his arms, legs and neck. I sat in the large, well lit room that smelled of disinfectant, while he worked on drawing the design. I was then led to a back room, where I rolled up the left sleeve of my shirt, and he got to work. I’ve always been curious why I was taken to a back room, because I’ve gotten other tattoos, several more at 7th street, and never once was I taken to the back. The only explanation I can think of is that since it was my first tattoo, maybe they thought I would start crying or make a scene or something, which I didn’t. The pain is what I was most worried about, but it really turned out to be not a big deal at all. It stung a little bit at first but after a couple of minutes my arm was numb to the stinging and it didn’t really feel like anything. It was over relatively quickly, in an hour or so, my first tattoo completed, and I admit I loved the way it looked.
I was left 7th street feeling exhilarated and I didn’t care that it was January, I wanted to walk around in sleeveless shirts, showing off my brand new artwork. Unfortunately I couldn’t really show it off because I was raised in a very conservative house where tattoos were forbidden, and my mom would flip out if she knew. I hid it from her for a while, but I eventually got another tattoo a few months later on my ankle, and not being a big fan of socks I decided to just tell her about the tattoos. She really wasn’t as mad as I expected, about my first two tattoos any way. I’ve come a long way in the almost eight years since that first tattoo on a cool January afternoon. Now that I’m older I understand why people are skeptical and warn against getting tattoos, and although I love almost all of mine, there is one that I got when I was eighteen that I do regret, but luckily for me I have a cool cover up design thought up that features my favorite basketball team. I honestly don’t know if I’ll ever get another tattoo, but if I had to bet I’d say that I would get at least one more besides the cover up. On tattoos my dad always said “it’s a permanent reminder of a temporary feeling” and I think he’s absolutely right. Like old photographs I can look at my tattoos and be taken back in time to different points in my life, and remembering those times is a comfort to me, even the times when things were bad, because I know that no matter how difficult things get for me, life can get better eventually.