Wednesday, June 3, 2009

New Tattoo

People keep asking for photos of the new tattoo that I got on Monday and I was holding off bc it takes some explaining. My tattoos always seem to. I don't have one that is just like "I like X so I got it inked on my skin." There is always a story. Usually an emotional one, as is the case with this one.

It's been almost a year since a dear friend of mine was killed in a motorcycle/car accident. This coming Saturday would have been his 30th birthday. I wanted to get the tattoo around that time to memorialize his life as opposed to his death, so my best friend and I went on Monday to get tattoos that reminded us of him. 

Marcel was many things including an artist. he would make random sketches on random things. Once we were in a diner and he drew this little design on a placemat. I'd seen him do it before, but usually he'd just leave the drawing behind. This time he carefully ripped it out, brought it with us and taped it up in my car. We had all kinds of things taped up inside of my car. There was a random sticker that said "We've got the cream filling," a certificate of sanitation we'd stolen from a Denny's bathroom, a "ticket" to either heaven or hell that some Jesus Freak had given me (we put the side for hell facing out), and sketchbook pages filled with our inside jokes (Pants!). Marcel taped his little sketch between the two doors on the driver's side. It was an abstract little drawing, but it did resemble an eye and it felt like it was there to watch over us. I needed watching over. Marcel knew this. He lived closest to me, which meant that I often dropped him off last. We had daily five minute conversations that were sort of coded, but at the same time incredibly personal and raw. He gave good advice and he gave me the eye drawing to watch over me. I'm sure of it. It was a very Marcel gesture.

When the pages of inside jokes fell down from the ceiling of the car, I brought them inside and put them in my scrapbook. I didn't really want to explain "Shake in a bowl" or "Mike, stop dropping your pants!" to every person who rode in my car. But when Marcel's drawing start to fall, I applied more tape. I needed that there. I didn't take it down until I got a new car in 2002. Then I peeled it off carefully, sun-faded and covered with tape and added it to my scrapbook.

After he died last year, I had conversations with two friends about getting tattoos in his memory. We all wanted different things, but we all planned to get them on our forearms so we could see them easily all the time and feel close to him. I've been hesitant to get ink on my forearms for a couple reasons. One, I have lots of scars, and two, it causes trouble when applying for office jobs. However losing Marcel was one of the main reasons I quit my office job. A month before he died, I'd gone to St. Louis, where he lived, because my brother was graduating law school. I wanted to take an extra day off work so I could see my brother, Marcel, and my friend Jenny who lives in St. Louis. My boss was being a total bitch about my vacation and sick time, even though I had it accumulated, so I didn't get to take that extra day, and I didn't get to see Marcel. I always admired Marcel because he lived his life on his own terms. So I decided to follow his example. Even though my financial situation is shakier, I now work a job that gives me flexibility to travel and see friends and get tattoos wherever the hell I want.  As for the scars, I'm tattooing around them. I could tattoo over them; the Marcel tattoo did cover one, but those scars are about a journey I had to take so they need to be there. However, Marcel helped me heal so it makes sense that his tattoo would sit above them. 

His sketch doesn't look like something anyone would normally get tattooed, but I didn't care. I flanked it with rosemary on each side so it looks like a crest-- rosemary is for remembrance, which I'm sure anyone who was as obsessed with Ophelia in Hamlet as I was in high school knows. It's my strangest tattoo and I'm sure I'll get a lot of questions and sometimes I'll be in the mood to answer at length and other times I'll simply say that I got it in memory of a friend. But today you got the long answer. That is if you bothered reading it and didn't just scroll down to this picture:


Kathy said...

You're one tough cookie, Steph. I'm sure Marcel loves that you got that sketch tattooed.

Angel Young said...

This is amazing. My best friend in the world died when I was fourteen. He was like my brother, and there was no one I was closer to. When I lost him, I was devistated. It was like I had no one to care about me anymore.
I'm finally 18 and plan to design a special tattoo for him. It's going to be my first tattoo, though I don't know where I'm going to get it yet. :)

Keri Mikulski said...

Love it, Stephanie! And I love that it means so much.

Annika said...

I love it. It's beautiful.

Stephanie Kuehnert said...

Thanks for all the kind words everyone. Angel, I am sorry to hear about your friend. Good luck with your design!

Heather said...

I absolute love the tattoo, Stephanie. I love it even more that has such depth and meaning to it!

Melissa said...

I love tattoos that have stories. I'm still debating where to get my tatt in memory of my grandparents.

The sketch you have is beautiful and interesting. I'm sure Marcel would be happy to see it.

rankpay said...

I like the way you immortalize the memory of your best friend! you're such a great friend!

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