"Como te parece?" [What do you think?] he asked. "Si, esta bien." [Yeah, its good] I replied. And then he was frustrated. The truth was, I was frustrated as it neared 12:30 am and we were still messing around with drawing lines. But I didn't say that. Instead he said, "Es para toda la vida. Tienes que estar segura." [This is for life. You have to be sure.] And he was right. "Es para ti. No es para mi. No es para nadie. Es para ti." And suddenly I realized he really cared. He had told me earlier it was a birthday gift and I couldn't pay him for it, but it was that moment that I realized this wasn't just about him doing one more tattoo. This wasn't a chance to practice. This wasn't a debt that needed to be paid or even gift that needed to be given. This was an opportunity to give me something that we both cared about. And my attitude shifted. I mean hell, it wasn't like I really had anything to do Friday morning anyway.
He said he needed to go upstairs to his apartment, and told me he would leave me alone to ponder which of the two Illimani drawings I wanted. It took me a minute, but I quickly decided the simple line was what I had imagined for months. So when he returned I raised my right arm up, as if asking to be called on by a teacher, and he grabbed the lotion to take the more detailed drawing off.
The old drawing erased, he transferred the line to my wrist yet again, and we inspected it to make sure it was straight. But of course, he decided it was too low and transferred it to his wrist, higher up, for comparison. But his wrist had far fewer fold lines in it than mine, so the comparison was difficult. But after much squinting, we decided mine should be moved up, so more lotion, more erasure, more transferring, and more scrutinizing for perfection. And then we were ready.
"Si. Esta perfecto."
"Ok, me dijiste tres veces. Te creo."
So he covered the arm rest with plastic, and slid two stools over by his tall, bright light. He cleaned and disinfected as I started realizing I was really going through with this.
"You know, its funny" I told him. "I remember in high school, eating dinner at the house of my boyfriend with his parents and discussing tattoos for some reason. I said I would never get one because I didn't like them. But, well, look at me now..."
"Why did you change your mind?"
I had to think about how to explain in Spanish. "Well, its like a scar. I like scars because you see them and you have to remember the circumstances in which you hurt yourself. You look at it and suddenly this memory comes back. And for me, I want to remember Bolivia. I think I've changed a lot here and grown, and had incredible experiences. And I never want to forget that. I want to look down at my wrist and remember."
And then I scooted my stool over and placed my wrist on the plastic covered leather.
"No, pero nunca voy a estar lista. Tienes que empezar."
And then, at approximately 1am, the buzzing started. And he gently touched down and did a short stroke.
"Esta bien? Estas bien?"
"Si. Todo bien."
Seventy five seconds later he was done.