Coloured pictures on the wall, decorative fonts and intriguing objets d'art collected around the place. Some of the pictures are suggestions or pre-made pieces from which you can select. Others are legitimate artworks for their own sake, in oils, acrylics, sculptures. Racks of pictures that will tell your story. Flaming dragons, leering skulls, delicate fairies. Professions of love. Brightly coloured koi and birds. Brass knuckles, a bad roll of the dice. Simple machinery, executed in brass and aluminum. Sterilized needles on bars, wrapped in hygenic pouches.
The smell of antiseptic spray, Dettol. Green soap. The plastic smell of Saran, wrapping any surface that can become infectious. You are safe in this world, the hospital smells reassuring. Incense, another note in the cacophony.
A cooling spray of soap against your skin. The gentle rasp of a disposable razor, taking hairs that will deviate or jam the machine out of the equation. The gentle pressure of paper, holding the stencil, against your skin. The rubbing of a marker against your skin. The slicking of your skin with a vaseline-like skin ointment. The buzzing of the machine against your body, sometimes tapping a meridian in your person making you feel the vibration the length of an arm or across your chest. Sometimes, the scalpel cutting sensation of the needle hitting a nerve. The endorphins kicking in, washing over you. A strange, unnatural calm, punctuated by picks, jabs and nicks. Later, after your skin is encased in lotion-slick Saran, the heat and burning sensation of a mild sunburn. Not unpleasant. The healing itching days later, as the scabs form.
The backdrop of music. Sometimes hard rock, sometimes rap. Guaranteed to always be different. A door opening and closing. A question, nervousness sometimes. Argument. The buzzing and snapping sounds of a machine being turned on and off with a foot pedal, like the comforting droning of a bumblebee. Conversation and commerce.
A baseball bat in the corner. A warning on the door. You must be 18 and sober. No discussion of religion or politics. No attitude. No second warning.
Words. Formal ones, making sure you know not to be drunk, that you are old enough to be tattooed. Words of warning before and after, medical advice and counsel. During the tattoo, discussion of the meaning behind it, the story being etched on your dermis, forever. A kind of shared intimacy. The banter of a barbershop. Coarse jokes. Foul language. But always respectful.
And after you leave, a story, a memory. A passion? Or, a warning? Whatever it is. It's