Note: This is the thirteenth of fifteen parts. Click here to read from the beginning.
Molly has several tattoos on her body. One on her back, and one on her foot. I was with her when she got both of them in downtown Northampton several years ago.
For the most part, I don’t have a problem with tattoos, as long as the artist’s shop is clean and adheres to safety guidelines. So, when Molly emailed me from Majuro that she wanted to get a tattoo, I asked her not to, and then I begged her not to, since this tends to be a place where infection runs rampant.
Several weeks after issuing my pleas, Molly emailed me a photo of herself, getting a tattoo.
When I arrived on the island, Molly took me in to meet the tattoo artist. His name is John, and when I walked in his shop, he was on his own table, tattooing his own leg. I was told he likes to work on himself on Mondays so that, by the weekend, the work will have healed, and he can be out in the water, spearfishing.
During my stay, I met dozens of people who had been tattooed by John. They all told me he runs a clean shop, and none of them experienced infection. I was told that John uses disposable needles and that the ink is used for one person only, and then he disposes of it. It helped me get over the fact that Molly got a tattoo from him, and besides, hers also did not get infected.
Near the end of my month-long visit to Majuro, Molly and her friends—Emily and Sara—were discussing getting a new tattoo—of a palm tree. I loved this idea so much as it seemed the perfect way to memorialize my fabulous trip; they agreed to let me in on their tattoo gang, and we made an appointment for the four of us.
I was excited to have a tattoo, and I was reassured by the sign hanging in John’s shop, which I hadn’t noticed on my first visit. It said, “Be freaking clean. Leave if you are sick.” Nice.
What I failed to understand was that it hurts to get a tattoo.
I learned this seconds before John started working on mine.
Emily asked me, “Are you nervous?”
“No,” I said. “Excited.” Then, “Why, does it hurt?”
“Ah, ya,” Emily said.
Sarah said, “It feels like a burning sensation.”
Then, John started and ouch, wow. Indeed, it did feel like burning. It felt like being branded with a soldering iron. I was glad I chose a small tattoo. It went by quickly; I used Lamaze breathing.
Molly, Emily and I got our palm trees on our left ankles, and Sara’s is on one of her fingers. Each tree is slightly different, like us, and I love how the tattoos unite us in a way, and how mine will always serve as a memory of my special time in the Marshall Islands.
So, the moral of this blog is: If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.
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