“My Favorite Needle”
Fiction. Based on a True Struggle with Generational Trauma.
by Noah Taylor
This journal entry is inspired by true events. Some of the characters, names, businesses, incidents, and certain locations and events have been fictionalized for dramatic purposes. Any similarity to the name, character or history of any person is entirely coincidental and unintentional.
I lean back into the tattoo chair and do my best to relax as Halee begins to slam my least favorite size needle into my skin: the largest one in the process that is used for outlining. I loved her traditional style of art, but I hated how much it relied on the thick black lines that only the worst size needle could leave behind. What’s interesting is that every tattoo artist tells me that the outlining is the least painful for most people, but it is the worst for me. She finishes outlining the profile of a woman with snakes for hair and a flower that is held at the base of her throat by her own hand. I wince as she begins to outline the dark coffin nail acrylics that press gently against the bloomed flower.
I don’t understand why changing has to be so hard. I’m overly transparent, and I feel like that should help. I’m trying to heal from my trauma in private, but when the people around me become collateral damage I am honest with them about why I am not acting the same after I apologize. I’m working extremely hard on myself during this time, but obviously it isn’t hard enough. Shedding these bad habits has been a literal nightmare: to stop gossiping and bad mouthing everyone after years of doing it is harder than it looks, but dealing with the chaos that ensues from my actions by actually taking responsibility for them? Horrible. Everything is collapsing around me but I can’t tell if it is falling apart or falling together. Hopefully, this tattoo can be the start of everything falling together. Everything’s changing, especially me. What the fuck, I’ve become someone I actually like, and suddenly everyone is angry.
My body is trembling from all the adrenaline. It feels like my body and the pen are vibrating together. I clench my fists and pinch the sensitive inside of my thighs to block out the pain of the tattoo. Soon my inner thighs are splattered quarter-sized pools of yellow, purple, and blue. She is only finishing the crown of Medusa’s head that rests on the soft part of my left inner elbow. Soon, she will have to begin the bottom of her wrist that rests at the beginning of mine. I knew those parts would be the most painful of the tattoo, but this is worse than I could have possibly imagined. We are almost an hour in with two more hours to go.
I have to believe that something or someone good is finally coming, and maybe it’s going to be a better version of myself. I have to believe it’s something good. From now on, I’m choosing to take accountability for my life in a way that I could not before. I’m no longer making excuses for myself. I’ve been experiencing growing pains of all kinds. The growing pains are getting more frequent. I believe the universe is forcing me to shed energies that no longer serve me. Friends are abandoning me left and right, and I don’t know whose in the wrong anymore. It’s probably me. All of these things have happened because I was dumb, but I think something good is coming in spite of my poor choices. Halee has concluded the outline of the tattoo about an hour ago. She paused to switch needles, and my body absorbs the remainder of the pain that it was trying to block. This is my first tattoo I’ve ever gotten alone, and it makes me feel independent in a way that I wouldn’t imagine it.
The little needle is for shading, and it feels so thin in my pores that I won’t feel pain for an hour. This is what makes it my favorite of the two needles. When another hour passed, we found ourselves entering the last hour of tattooing. My forearm was swollen, and blotched with various pinks and reds. The area of the tattoo grew to the point where she had to pause every few minutes to continue wiping my arm clean from the blood that seeped past the ink. The pen hummed on. Halee continued to dig into my skin. I wanted to beg her to stop, but knew that I could not if I ever wanted to leave this tattoo studio before the sun went down. I leaned back into my chair and felt the now excruciating pain that rattled my whole skeleton. I closed my eyes, and continued to pinch my thighs. I’m choosing to shed the habits I learned from the generation before me, and hope that they heal with me as I heal. I won’t make the same mistakes as my parents. By getting this tattoo I am choosing to rewrite myself everyday. I repeated this thought over and over again until my debit card was charged for the procedure. I repeated this thought throughout the short walk from the tattoo parlor to my little apartment. My forearm pulsed with every word, and exhaustion from the adrenaline for three hours pushed me through my front door and onto my bed.