I had never liked tattoos, and I never wanted them, but not for religious reasons based on the absurd prohibitions of the King James Bible, Leviticus 19:28, Corinthians 6: 19-20, Revelations 19:16, and so on. I am not religious. On the contrary, I am an atheist and a humanist. I simply did not understand their meaning, nor see their attraction, and why one would decide to paint himself like that, spending big money on it! It is paying for an indelible stain, indelible, yet at the same time, fading after a few years. Plus, once they became fashionable, I began to really hate them with the intensity that characterizes me in everything I do and think.
Perhaps my dislike has always been completely arbitrary, like all hates, but also like all loves. I enjoy reflecting upon these subjects, and I think that, for the most part, the unconscious reasons that contributed to my intolerant position were due to their temporary nature. Yes, I think this was the fundamental point: ephemerality frightens me also. Because I cannot say that some tattoos are not beautiful, well made, indeed, let’s face it, true works of art; but this is precisely the problem: a work of art which lasts as long as a person is like a Caravaggio that is thrown away after a few years. And worse, a work of art attached to the stupidity of a single person from which it cannot be separated. You have to endure his presence, it is blasphemy; it would be like going to see the Cenacle and finding Mr. Nobody there, who speaks like an idiot all the time, vulgarly, you are suddenly swamped with idiocy, like locker-room comments between one burp and another. A true nightmare!
I know, it is impractical, the complete annihilation of the human identity that I have always dreamed of. And art in particular should not even be known by its manufacturer (who is never the true creator), any idea of eternity is illusory; nothing is eternal and nothing ever stays the same, ever. Change is death, in a sense, but this also means that death is just another change among many, Zhuang Zhou.
The paintings preserved in museums are no less “dead” than the tattoos of some biker who died in a shootout, or in an accident, years ago; the frescoes of Rome or Florence, the mosaics of Ferrara, the tapestries of the Queen of England, we do not see them with the same eyes as those who admired them when they were made. In fact, those particular works, in the strictest sense, no longer exist. They have been lost, as the epidermis of the corpses of those who loved the human body pictorial decoration have been lost. Lost as the Pyramids, for as great as they are, in many thousands of years, they will become the sand that has already covered them for centuries.
Despite these considerations, I could not really change my mind on the subject until two years ago. I have to admit I’m a really stubborn guy, everybody says so, and I know that myself, but this time, surprisingly, I managed to take a few steps forward.
Two years ago, my nephew came to help me in the garage. We had to move big heavy boxes and a lot of junk that I had been lazily accumulating over the years, stuff that I decided had to be given to second-hand dealers. In the heat of July, in a t-shirt, I noticed immediately that he was covered with tattoos; I counted six, seven … nine, he told me with a smile of satisfaction. The young man is still in his twenties, it must be understood, he is an engineer, and he is also fashionable.
I never noticed his decorations, though; I do not see him often, I must say.
We talked a bit about the topic, and I explained my perplexities, which he was aware of, and which, perhaps, had prevented him from revealing the decorations before. He is a very intelligent and prepared man, and in a couple of hours, he gave me a general and consistent account of his personal preference for body art, explaining his reasons so articulately that he managed to convince me. I remember that something clicked inside of me, and from then on I started to see tattoos in a new light.
As for my particular idiosyncrasy regarding perishing works, or at least those that “perish too quickly” … in short, it turned out that there is currently a remedy! There are those who have their skin tanned after death, if they so choose, saving the precious ink that decorates it. It could be perceived as a bizarre idea, certainly, but it is effective. I do not know why, but it gave me a certain sense of ease to know that there is an alternative to decomposition.
When he left, he told me he had an appointment that week for a new tattoo, adding also that I would like it, that he had chosen it with me in mind, and the old stories that I told him as a child. Maybe it is naive and stupid, but I felt some pride inside. I did not show it, of course, but I made him promise he would come back and let me see it as soon as possible once it was done.
Three weeks later, he returned. On his back, he had a creature straight from the twisted fantasy of Lovecraft, one of the Great Old Ones, probably Cthulhu, yes, Cthulhu for sure, an octopus monster with red garnet eyes, evil, with teeth, tentacles, beaks. It was magnificent! It went way beyond my expectations, truly magnificent, splendid: the colors were perfect, the definition extraordinary, the plasticity of those curves worthy of a great artist. I gasped before that work that required more than thirty hours of labor to be completed in over two weeks. Wonderful! It was so beautiful that it would be featured in a specialist magazine, he told me. A photo will not be “forever”, but it’s better than nothing, I thought.
From that day, I completely reversed my position, I began to have an almost obsessive interested in tattoos. I looked for them on the people I encountered, I selected the best, I bought magazines.
I also did copious and in-depth anthropological research on the internet, in short, I dedicated myself seriously to the subject, to become an expert of the various practices, schools, origins, techniques. I would not like to define myself as an authority, but without false modesty, I am certainly very prepared; above all I was interested, and dedicated myself to the strange and unusual practice of tattoo preservation, which is not yet practiced extensively, but I predict it will win people over in time. After all, it is the most sensible thing to do.
In the beginning, as with many ventures, I was not always successful. Some tattoos, I have to admit, I ruined them forever, and I very much regret it. Good intentions, as we know, are not enough. To be successful, we need not only extreme attention and dedication in fields such as this, where something as delicate as human skin is at stake, but it is especially important to practice. Direct and repeated experience is paramount! There are a thousand factors and diverse situations that can ruin an accurate work and a precise incision. Today, however, I can say, I have the necessary practice. I feel very confident when I operate, and I’m putting together a nice collection of pieces. It will be quite a big surprise for my nephew when I leave this world and pass it on to him. For now, no one knows about my special “illuminated parchments”, as I like to call them in a playful tone. I select the best works, only the large ones, I do not dedicate myself to forearms or calves, but for very rare exceptions, I remove them accurately with a scalpel, I keep them tanned between sheets of PVC, as posters.
Indeed, just today I saw a magnificent piece at the pool, a girl tattooed with an incredibly beautiful red and green octopus, which wrapped around her body from the neck to the thighs. Fortunately, I have already managed to find out where she lives. I’m going to preserve her masterpiece tonight.