The artist in the next booth is transferring elaborate stencils to the upper arms of a shirtless man from elbows to shoulders. He's clearly been in this same situation years ago and for reasons I'll never know has had a change of heart over his original decision. He is beginning what will be a lengthy process up having a "cover-up" done on each arm.
Will I be in the same situation years down the road? Should I just pull the plug now, wash the still-damp transfer from my freshly shaved shoulder and save myself a couple hundred bucks? Nope, I've been wanting this for a couple of decades and the ideas I've thrown around my head over the years have changed both in theme and and elaborateness but, has distilled down to this and I like it just fine... no, I love it. A couple raspy chatters of the gun and a man's gloved hand firmly grasps my upper arm and I hear the defining question of no return, "Ready"?
It hurts a bit but not in the way I imagined and not unlike getting one's hair cut the artist and I break into spontaneous small talk about his career, where we're from, what brought us to the Island, Steven Seagal, etc, etc. The buzzing starts and stops with a regular rhythm between my shoulder and the pool of jet-black ink just out of sight behind me. A quick wipe of my shoulder to get rid of the blood and extra ink from the last pass and he begins again.
The fellow beside me is going to be here a lot longer than me and has a familiar rapport with the artist drawing along the detailed outlines that for the life of me I can't figure out. My best bet is that its reptilian and it's very elaborate.
After about an hour, black is exchanged for red. We're nearly done. Ten minutes more and the the buzzing stops for good and I'm inked and that's that. The chance to change my mind has long past.
I look in the mirror and I like what I see. A flash of "what next?" shoots through my mind quite unexpectedly. What next indeed and where? This will take a couple of weeks to fully heal, likely will need a touch up or two, then? Then I'll let it soak in before I worry anymore about what's next.
This has been a long time coming and the Compass Rose perfectly carved into my right shoulder epitomizes my love of boats and the sea and will also serve as a reminder to always strive to steer a steady and true course as I navigate my way through life...sometimes through calm, open waters where I can see clearly in all directions and sometimes, inevitably through the rough stuff where all I have to go by is my compass...