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In Which The Salt Girl Unwittingly Gets A $700 Tattoo.

I often joke that my life is governed by Murphy’s Law. Those who are close to me know that this is at least partly true: I am afraid of skunks, and I come from an island that is hideously overpopulated by them. If I am dressed up, with my hair straightened, it will undoubtedly pour, thereby rendering both my outfit and my hair worthless. If I like a guy, he will instantly be attracted to my best friend. If I go somewhere on vacation, the most exciting thing in my home town will happen the day after I leave, and the most exciting thing in the city I’m visiting will occur the day after I return home. If I get a shift covered at work, the person who covers for me will make twice what I’m used to for that particular shift.

And I’m clumsy. I’m a dalmatian-spotted mess of bruises most of the time, and I’m almost incapable of crossing a room without walking into something. I have slammed my own fingers in car doors, I have thrown out my back by tripping over a cat, I hit my head on the car roof nearly every time I get into a car that’s smaller than an SUV.

And I’m unlucky. When I’m riding in someone’s car, they hit every red light until they drop me off. Likewise, when I’m riding my bike, I encounter not only every red light, but every traffic impediment imaginable (like street fairs with renta-cops). I have never won more than ten dollars on a scratch ticket–but I’ve watched the person who bought the ticket after mine win $500. I lost a spelling bee once because the judges made an error three rounds back, and didn’t catch it until I was going for the win. The next year, in the same spelling bee, my first word was one that I’d never heard before so I was out in the first round, but I correctly spelled every other word in the competition without even a second thought.

That said, I was terribly disappointed but not surprised to discover this evening that I have just purchased myself a seven hundred dollar tattoo. According to the care regimen for the tattoo I paid $250 for last week, I am supposed to wash it several times a day with “a gentle, antimicrobial soap, such as Dr. Bronner’s.” I have done so, faithfully–so faithfully that I made the awful mistake of carrying the soap with me in my bag when I went to work. The soap, somewhere between work and home, inexplicably opened and spilled all over the inside of my bag, destroying not only the bag (which I adore–and paid $70 for, but I am willing to part with grudgingly) but also my four-month new $350 80GB video iPod.

I love my iPod. I don’t ever leave home without it, and I am frequently able to play it through the sound system at work so that everyone else can enjoy my music too. When I fly, I load videos onto it so that I can sit in my seat and be passively entertained for hours on end. I am addicted to music–so much that in the Time Before Ipods, I used to spend hundreds of dollars every year replacing Walkmen and Discmen so that I could constantly have a portable source of music. Ipod eliminated the need to do this–until Murphy’s Law and my own ridiculous stupidity eliminated my iPod.

The kicker of the whole thing is this: up until a few weeks ago, I always kept my iPod in a protective case, which, had it been on my beloved gadget this evening, probably would have saved it from the Dreaded Soap. Unfortunately, I discovered a few weeks ago that the reason that the speakers often buzzed when my iPod was playing at work was because the case prevented the jack cord from going all the way in, meaning there was a faulty connection–hence the buzz. I took to taking my iPod out of the case when I played it at work, and about a week ago, I was unable to find the top part of the case when I retrieved my iPod. It could have fallen in the recycling bin, which is located just under the stereo at work. Needless to say, I did not go right out and buy a new case like I should have, nor did I refrain from stashing my iPod in my bag while in transit.

The music itself is replaceable, as I have very smartly retained all of my CDs–but the basic fact is that I cannot afford a new iPod. I cannot afford food at this point, if you take my current debt-to-income ratio into consideration. I couldn’t afford the goddamn tattoo. I suspended my guilt over that at the time, but now it’s hitting me like an anvil dropped from on high: If you’d just refrained from getting the tattoo, you’d still have your iPod…

I’m devastated, because I’m pretty attached to the little sucker, but more than that I’m frustrated and disappointed because I did this, just like I am usually the culprit when things go wrong in my life.

And to top it off, after an entirely mosquito-bite-free summer, I’ve just been eaten alive while I’ve been typing this blog, and I think one of the little fuckers got me on my $700 tattoo. And I’m out of the damn soap because it’s all in my iPod.

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Invisible Ink

When I visited Paris a couple of years ago with an ex, we did the tourist thing for a bit, which of course included a visit to The Louvre. We saw the Mona Lisa, some Van Goghs, a few other extremely famous paintings–then while we were descending a stairway to look at a room full of sketches, I caught sight of something truly arresting. I’ve always appreciated art, but I must admit that I’m not really stricken with awe by most paintings. I prefer photography and, I discovered on this trip, sculpture. There, in the stairway, was the only piece of art that has given me goosebumps: the Winged Victory of Samothrace. The Winged Victory of┬áSamothrace

The sculpture is of the goddess Nike, the goddess of Victory, and dates back to sometime B.C. (I’ve forgotten the date and am not feeling the necessity to look it up). It was discovered, partially destroyed, centuries after its creation. The goddess’s head and arms are missing, but a massive set of imposing wings are intact, outstretched behind her. I stopped in the stairwell and stared, while my ex anxiously shuffled his feet–to him, this visit was merely a “must-see,” and he didn’t appear truly awed by much of anything we saw, much less paralyzed on a stone step as I was, completely transfixed.

Ever since I saw the Winged Victory, I’ve wanted to get it as a tattoo. I’ve spent hours online looking for the right image–one that would translate correctly to the flesh, retaining the power of the image as much as possible. About a year ago, I was trading images of the sculpture with my friend Dave, a MySpace buddy who I’d never met in person. He sent me a few shots that I liked, and I added them to my library of “Winged Victory” images. In addition to finding the right shot, I needed to decide where on my body I’d like to have the Victory. I pondered putting it on my upper arm, but I’ve shied away from tattooing my arms for unknown reasons. I concluded that the best place to put it would be on my shoulder–my right shoulder, so that the wings would reach up and out from my shoulderblade and appear almost as though I had a wing of my own.

A couple months after the initial image trade with Dave, I received a picture message on my cell phone from an unknown number. The photo was of a girl’s back, with an amazing tattoo of the Winged Victory in exactly the place I wanted to get it. Damn, I thought. I guess I’m not so original after all. It took me a minute to realize that it was Dave who had sent me the message. I figured, since Dave is sort of an internet research guru and can find almost anything online, that he’d found the image on a website somewhere. Still, I asked: Whose back is that? For a couple hours, I received no response. Finally, a message came in: My psycho ex.

For a moment, I considered the possibility that my cyber-friend, whom I’d never met and should therefore not really consider a friend (though I did, and still do, and we’ve actually met now), had thought my idea was so cool that he’d shared it with this girl and she’d gone and swiped my idea. No, Dave told me when I asked him if this was the case, she came into town and boasted of a new tattoo, and when he saw it, he was shocked.

Though there is an incredibly small chance that I will ever meet Dave’s “Psycho ex,” or even encounter anyone who has met her besides Dave, I am nonetheless reluctant to get the tattoo now. The tattoos I do have, with the exception of the first one I got professionally (the Chinese symbol for “pleasure” on my back, which I had done when I was 18) are carefully chosen, and as far as I know, unique to me. While I understand that it’s a near certainty that there will be other people in the world who have the Winged Victory tattooed on them, as there are millions who have seen the sculpture and surely some of them were as taken aback by it as I was, still it makes me uncomfortable to know that I have a friend who’s seen the tattoo. In the exact spot I wanted to put it.

I’ve toyed with the idea of putting the tattoo in a different place, but the only place it belongs is on my right shoulder blade. That’s all there is to it. So, I either get it where it belongs–and have the exact same tattoo as someone’s Psycho Ex (not exactly someone I want to share a taste in ink with), or I do not get it at all. This, along with poverty and procrastination, is the reason my flesh is not currently adorned with the goddess of victory in all her stone glory.

My friend Jamie is coming up either tomorrow or next week, and we are going to get tattooed. Jamie knows exactly what she wants, and where she wants it. I would love to get the Victory, but a) can’t afford it, and b) have yet to make up my mind as to whether I want it at all anymore.

I know that my reluctance may sound unnecessarily indignant, but to me, a tattoo is a statement of identity–a marking which makes a claim not only of that person’s likes, loves and history, but of who they are. With this thought in mind, I’ve considered my other tattoos–“Belonging to the ocean” in Sanskrit; “Wander” and “Experience” in Japanese on my ankles; a Beastie figure on my neck in honor of my mother–and I’ve started to wonder if I have any business putting the Victory on my body at all, regardless of the other girl who’s already done it. After all, victory and the quest for it are not very high up on my list of important ideals. I don’t believe in war, and I feel most often that people who are on a quest for victory are willing to do almost anything in order to attain it, including damaging other people without regard–and that is an ideal I do not agree with. On the flip side, what the mythological significance of the sculpture is was never what drew me to it, or had me eager to preserve the image for posterity on my skin. The thing was just so goddamned beautiful, and I do appreciate beauty, particularly damaged beauty.

On Wednesday, I will most likely have a Latin phrase inked on the inside of my right wrist: Verba volant; Scripta manent. Translation: Spoken words fly away; Written words remain. As far as I know, this is mine and mine alone, tattoo wise. And it’s small, which means it’s cheap, and that’s what I can afford.

On a more philosophical level, a writer cannot afford to go chasing after victory, anyhow. They must be satisfied instead with the pursuit of small, indelible truths–because in time, the ever-pursued victory will spread its legendary wings and fly away too, ceasing to matter in the long run. But then again, there’s a certain melancholy beauty to destroyed victory… wingedvictory.jpg