In the past few weeks as I prepare for the move to London I've found myself ticking things off my Sydney bucket list, despite living here for 17 years. It's good to have time to say goodbye to a country instead of hurriedly leaving with a few days notice and not be able to say goodbye, not even to school friends (leaving Papua New Guinea is a story for another time).
One of the things I wanted to do was finish a tattoo I had gotten some 8-10
years ago (so long ago I can't actually remember how long it's been). I'll be
honest, it was not really thought out. I knew I wanted something to pay homage
to the country where I had lived the first 12 years of my life. So I took the
bird that's on their flag (google Papua New Guinea flag) and got that outlined
on. Why? Don't know.
Thankfully my cousin married a supremely talented tattoo artist who saved me
from a lifetime of embarrassment. I sent him a photo of what he had to work
with. I was pretty difficult, not having much of an idea of what I wanted and
giving him very little direction (stylised, I think. Maybe a bit phoenix-y with
a bit of colour. Not sure what colours). A few days later I was sent a hand
drawn draft. 'Rough' he called it. Beautiful is what I called it.
He was good enough to squeeze me in because he didn't really have any
openings before I left for London. He lay his drawing on top of the existing
tattoo and it literally fit perfectly - if that's not a sign, what is.
The tattooing of the outline wasn't too bad. I had a few "outline"
tattoos so this wasn't much of a shock. Till he got to my spine. Oh sweet Lord
the spine was painful. But shortly after the outline was done and it looked
He mentioned he would start colouring in next. I asked "the colouring
in is less painful than the outline right?" He looked at me with this
uncomfortable 'should I lie to her' look and I knew I was in for trouble.
He started to colour-in the dark edges of the wings. That was ok pain-wise.
He did the red tips of the plumes. Still tracking ok. Then he brought out the
light blue dye. Oh my gosh. It's like scratching into your skin in the same
spot over and over again. My whole body seized up till I got pins and needles
in my left arm. I had to take a break. I got up and walked around a bit to
relax and prepare myself for more pain.
Back for more. I started to regret it. I wondered if I could stop right now
and the tattoo miraculously wouldn't look like shit. Why am I doing this to
myself. I started sweating and tensing up again. I needed another break.
As I wiped the tears from my eyes (I wasn't crying... My eyes were just
moist...) I noticed my hands were shaking. Legit shaking. It took me 5 minutes
to un-tense all the muscles in my body. In the background I think I heard him
say "home stretch" and then "ten more minutes". Ok suck it
up Kay. Ten more minutes, you can do this.
Surprisingly the last 10 minutes weren't actually that bad. He was just
doing the yellow ink - beak, bit on the plumes and the 3 things coming out of
the head. "Done" was the sweetest word I had heard all day. I had a
look in the mirror. Wow. It was SO much better than I thought it could possibly
be. I was absolutely thrilled with it and actually a little proud of myself
that I did it (it's a bit sad, I know).
Got myself bandaged up (bepanthen and cling wrap became my best friends) and
checked my watch. It was 3pm. I had arrived at 10am with little more than one
slice of toast in my stomach.
It's been a few days and I'm being super diligent about the after care.
Sleeping and showering are challenging and soon the itchiness is going to set in.
But I'm absolutely thrilled with it and so glad I did it. The clever Court mentioned how apt it was that my bird of paradise transformed into a phoenix, just as I am about to embark on a new chapter in life. Had not even thought about that myself but very fitting!
(Note to future Kay: you are re-reading this because you are contemplating another tatt. Don't do it. This is enough!)