By Julien-Pierre Campbell
A brisk Saturday, sunny but cool, and we stumble into the tattoo parlor. My usual artist, the stern Igor, sees me and grins. I’m with my newly-minted best friend Ali, and it’s time for a milestone in our friendship: matching tattoos. It was a rushed, giggling decision. I have no regrets.
“I’m getting a tattoo on Saturday,” I had told her.
“What? Me too!” Ali said. We grinned at one another across the table in the Queer Resource Center. “At least I’d like to. I don’t wanna be that person who gets Hozier lyrics tattooed on them, but…”
“What?!” I yelled. “I’m getting Hozier lyrics tattooed!” What were the odds?
“From what song?”
“‘Nina Cried Power.’ You know those lyrics, ‘The heaven of the human spirit ringing?’ Those are the ones I want.” I felt that certainty down to my bones. The first time I ever head it, I was moved to tears. I knew I needed it on my body, which is a map of my favorite quotes.
Ali’s eyes were saucers. “I want lyrics from that song too! ‘It’s not the waking, it’s the rising.’ What the hell?!”
Our individual lyrics mean so much to us for so many different reasons. Mine remind me that I am stronger than my depression. My human spirit rings out with all the force of heaven. It does not end.
“I know a tattoo guy,” I said, and with that, our plan was set.
Saturday arrives. Igor draws up our designs using my favorite font, and Ali and I discuss what led us to this moment. We talk about our childhoods, and the trauma we’ve endured. We talk of our paramours and friends. I chug a bottle of water followed by a liter of Coke. We’re buzzing with excitement.
Finally, Igor calls us back.
We go together, grinning, and I sit down across from my artist. Igor is a funny guy, accented and unsmiling, but he’s always got a chuckle for my terrible jokes.
“Are you ready?” he asks.
I nod. As the tattoo gun pierces my wrist, I smile through the pain.
The heaven of the human spirit is ringing.