The tattoo is healing nicely. If it wasn’t for a bloom of pink just next to my collarbone, you wouldn’t even know that - only a few days ago - that section of skin was bare. Now inky black letters curve and curl over themselves, a lightbulb illuminating their twisting path. Lights up, in a swirling cursive font, originally written over and over and over again on a series of bright white note cards until I was satisfied the handwriting was just right. Even so:
“Do you think that writing is okay? For a tattoo, I mean,” I asked, brightly, hoping the cheerful tone in my voice would hide the anxiety nestling just between my ribs.
A kind smile, reassuring. “Is it your handwriting?” Yes. “Then I think you should use this one. That’s kind of cool.” Yes. Tattoo artists are probably used to that specific brand of nerves. The uncertainty you face just before permanently altering a part of your body. But it’s also a little exciting, isn’t it? Knowing you’re about to do something you can’t take back.
“I really like it,” I told him as soon as he showed me the design. “It looks homemade. Which is a compliment, by the way,” I added, quickly, my anxiety beginning to peak once again. Do not accidentally insult your tattoo artist. Do not-
Another smile. “That’s exactly what I was going for.”
The entire process, once I was seated in the chair at the back of the shop - tattoo pen buzzing away, biting into my skin and going over bone, merely inches from the base of my neck - couldn’t have taken more than ten minutes. Closer to five. “I’m about to give you the best news you’ve heard today,” he said, leaning back. I glanced up from what I was reading - Call Down the Hawk. Page four of the prologue. An appropriate distraction, considering Ronan Lynch’s opinion on tattoos.
That was it. We were finished. A quick glance in the mirror and - Oh, I love it. Black ink on pale skin.
There’s something to be said about adding something so immutable onto a creature that is fickle by nature. Loving something one minute, hating it the next. And vice versa. I never quite know where my thoughts will lead me, and what decisions will be made because of said thoughts. The song that inspired the tattoo - “Lights Up” by Harry Styles - is one that, immediately after I listened to it the first time, I messaged a friend of mine just to tell her how much I didn’t like the lyrics. And now those lyrics are forever etched into my skin. Like I said: fickle. Forever changing.
“Lights Up” is the fourth track on Harry Styles’s emotionally revealing sophomore album, Fine Line. I’ve managed to play this album at least once a week since it was first released - months and months of hearing the same twelve songs over and over, and somehow I’m still not bored. To be honest, the song isn't even my favorite on the album. "Sunflower, Vol. 6" is. For now. My opinion might change tomorrow.
“Do you know who you are?” the song asks. Sometimes.
This is something I'm just now beginning to accept about myself - how my opinions ebb and flow, the changing of tides.
And change is a good thing, right? Recently I re-read Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, which is a book I actively did not like when I first read it, but now it numbers as one of my all-time favorites. Do you detect a pattern here? Growing to love something after giving it another chance, because for some reason, I managed to connect with this book in a way I couldn't years ago. Just like I managed to connect with "Lights Up" in a way I couldn't the first go around.
Aristotle and Dante is an occasionally rough and intensely emotional exploration of identity featuring a melancholy main character who takes awhile to figure himself out. I mean, I can relate. A little too much, in fact. It's one of those books - whenever I mention it by name - the person I'm talking to usually sighs out loud and clutches their chest, the physical embodiment of the heart-eyes emoji. It's one of those books where I'm kind of shocked I didn't immediately love.
It's one of those books that makes me grateful I'm an ever-changing, ever-evolving creature, if it means that I get to rediscover characters like Ari exist in the bookish universe. Characters who are complicated and rough around the edges and, by the end, so full of hope. Ari proves that change is good, and necessary and, ultimately, freeing.
-Kimberly Lopez is a Readers' Services Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.