Sleeved sessions: 1.

2 min read | 506 words

Before last Friday, the last time I got tattooed I was freebasing cocaine and fucking my tattoo artist. Not while he was tattooing me, obviously. That would be incredibly difficult and definitely irresponsible (WHAT IF WE DROPPED THE DRUGS?!). 

It was the last of three sessions I sat through to finish up the floral and, as he called it, ‘alien plant life’ half sleeve on my right upper arm. And it was punctuated by periods of sex and substance abuse, just like the other sessions, and most of my life during those days, had been.

Eighteen months later I stopped doing drugs. All of them. The summer after that I decided I was going to ink this story onto me; that I was going to use art as a testament to my past and to my future.

Last week — a decade after last being tattooed, eight years into total sobriety from drugs (I still smoked cigarettes for a few more years and I still drink), and two months into being 31 (I don't know what that has to do with anything?) — I finally sat and started the sleeve I’ve been wanting (and planning) all this time. Incomplete as it currently is, it has already become that testament to my past and a reminder for the future; for when life feels real and hard and dirty and unfair.

The first session only saw the outline of the main element completed: flowers and entangled serpents. Flowers because I like flowers, and serpents because: symbolism. The serpents represent the duality of life; the constant ebb and flow of yin and yang; the quest to achieve balance; the acknowledgment and acceptance that light and dark exist together. Plus, serpents are associated with primal energy, and a serpent’s shedding of its skin symbolizes transformation, rebirth and healing. Also: I’m a Gemini. 

We still have shading and minimal coloring to complete on this specific section (element (piece (???))) of the sleeve, and then the outline, shading and minimal coloring of the entire rest of my arm, which means it’ll be awhile before it’s completely finished. BUT IT’S BEEN STARTED AND THAT MAKES ME SO HAPPY.

I thought this new piece would take time to get used to. That it’d catch me off-guard out of the corner of my eye, or when I looked in the mirror. That I might forget I had it or not like it or not like it on me. But nope. I loved it before it was one me. I loved it after it was on me. I still love it. It took exactly no seconds to get used it. No bullshit, it feels like it has always been there; like it’s always been a part of me. Maybe because it’s healed perfectly. Maybe because it’s incredible work. Maybe because I’ve been living with this concept, this idea, this story for so long and after nearly a decade, I’m finally living on the outside the story and the truth I’ve been living on the inside. 


Not sponsored, just FYI: Original artwork drawn and tattooed by AmyxBarrow at Rick's Tattoo Studio in Arlington, Virginia. HIGHLY RECOMMEND.