At first it tickled, the needlepoint jabbing right through the thin layer of tissue until I could feel it tapping the bones of my ribs in rapid succession. The pain I assumed to be a myth finally came with the filling-in stage. The long drags of the tattoo gun across my torso gave me the sensation that my skin was being peeled off like the rind of an orange.
I was trying to focus in on the pain; it helped keep my mind off that burning thought in the back of my head that I had suppressed for over a month. About half way through the two and a half hour ordeal the question finally surfaced: “Do I even, really want this tattoo?”
I was relieved the question had finally come out. This was partly due to the fact that I was past the point of no return –no sense in worrying about what I now had no control over. I could only hope for the best. I took a deep breath and thought instead: “How did I wind up in a tattoo parlor in Santiago, Chile?”
I had been studying in Chile for 5 months leading up until the tattoo. Three of those months I greatly enjoyed; however, for those other two dark and cold months I was very depressed. Having heard only positive things from people who had studied abroad, this deep bout of depression caught me completely off guard. I had weathered hard times in the past but always with the love and support of my family and friends- in Chile I was on my own. My emotional torment must have been blatantly obvious because one day my host mom grabbed me by the shoulders, looked into my eyes and simply said: “La esperanza es lo último que se pierde” or “Hope is the last thing you lose.”
I smiled back at her and immediately dismissed her prescription as a bunch bullshit. I hadn’t felt hope for two months, yet, the saying incessantly nagged at me. I kept questioning why I had given up hope so much in the past. “Esperanza” shares the same root as the word “esperar” meaning “to wait” as well as “to hope”. I came to the painful realization that all too often in the past, I had ditched this precious last reserve and couldn’t see myself waiting through the hard times.
The sharp tearing of the needle snapped me back to the present. The artist was putting the finishing touches on the last “e” of “pierde”. I smiled as I calmly realized just how much I wanted this tattoo. There will be many more hard times to come, when they do all I will have to do is look in the mirror to reaffirm what I believe: “La esperanza es lo ultimo que se pierde.”
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