birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Perfect Imperfection

"Why do you want it there?" he asked me.

"I dunno," I replied. "There's something nice about my toes, I think it will look good there."

I stared down at my feet, wiggling my toes, appreciating how my dark milk chocolate skin glistened in the sunlight. My skin looking soft, smooth and silky. I envisioned a tiny black dot on each big toe with an adorable tiny black dot centered below the nail and where my toe bends.

The first tattoo I got was a simple outline of a lotus flower on the inside of my left ankle. A birthday gift to myself when I turned 45. Now, just before my 46th birthday, I planned to get a dot on each big toe.

I visit my friend Carlos, a painter and tattoo artist, who I went to grad school with, at his apartment. His fiancé, an artist as well, opens the door and greets me. We head to their studio and Carlos draws a tiny purple dot where I showed him I want my tattoo. I've also decided to get small dime-sized alchemy symbols of the sun and the moon tattooed on the inside of each ankle, so he draws these symbols as well in purple on my chocolaty brown skin.

It's been 12 months since my last tattoo and although I can easily describe the feeling of getting a tattoo as someone very s l o w l y drawing into your flesh with a hot needle, the actual pain has been forgotten by my memory. Carlos begins to draw the tattoo on the inside of my right ankle and if my eyes were closed, I'd swear a mean gray cat with yellow eyes was smirking as it drew one claw deep into my flesh for the sheer pleasure of watching me wince.

It was horrible. Carlos was great, but the pain was horrible. He repeats this torture on the inside of my left ankle and I look over at his fiancé and she smiles telling me it'll be over in a moment. It feels like hours.

I am grateful it is over and think nothing of the two dots waiting to be tattooed on my toes. They are just dots, little small things that are really nothing.

The whirl of the tattoo gun begins and - WHAT THE FUCK?! is all I can think. It feels as if someone is stabbing my bones, for all of a sudden I realize there is no fat, no meat, no cushin', no nuthin' on your toes and I know I am about to die. I cannot sit still for this. The grim reaper is standing behind me and I am willing to hug him and ask him to carry me over the threshold, 'cause this shit is for the birds!

Carlos stops. I exhale and my chest is heaving. The tattoo gun begins it's song and he continues on the second toe. I can't take it and Carlos tells me he is almost done. I've had enough and stop him.

Nineteen months later...

If you didn't know about my toes, you wouldn't see the dots. If you did notice one, you'd think it was a mole. And, if you did see one, you'd probably notice the dot on the right toe, 'cause the other one is hardly noticeable.

I look at my toes often and I love my lil dots. They are perfect in their imperfection, just like me.


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