My First Tattoo: That Time I Fell in Love in Seattle

In a moment of lucid foresight (a rare event in my mid-20’s), I decided to take a two week vacation to explore the rugged terrain of lands unknown to me: the majestic Southwest and the punk/hipster-fied Pacific Northwest. I was applying for a new job and figured if I got this job, I would likely not be able to take a vacation anytime soon. Ever the pragmatist, I also rationalized that if I didn’t get this job (eyes rolling back, mental “whatev, bro”), at least I could say I had a bomb end-of-summer, pre-return-to-the-marathon-of-grad-school vacay. With the blessings of maybe my coolest boss (definitely the most considerate) boss to-date, I found myself embarking on my very own “Fievel Goes West” adventure of a lifetimeeeeeee!!!! (Or, at least of my mid-20’s!!!!)

The southwest was uncomfortably too dry, brown, orange, rust, and short for my liking. Don’t get me wrong. It was beautiful. Absolutely stunningly beautiful. But between being fearful of rattlesnakes falling from cliffs above or being asked for my documents by white police below and bumping my head on nearly-every doorway because at 5’6″, I am an Amazonian ’round these parts, I enjoyed the southwest at a very-generous “7” on the scale of 1-10. “1” being as fun as a cavity-filling by a dentist with “crazy eyes” and a shaky hand and “10” being the embodiment of whatever Belinda Carlisle’s singing about in “Heaven is a Place on Earth”.

Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Taos, and somewhere in Arizona where Humphrey’s Peak is, you get a “7” because of my friends who lived there and graciously hosted me, the wit and deliciousness of the “Christmas tree salsa-ing” of all my food (which, let’s be real, was mostly tacos and burritos but you couldn’t tell the difference under all that salsa), my first foray into chocolate red wine (de-freakin’-liciousness), hiking the tallest (echo) peak (echo) in (echo) Arizona (echo) with some of my guy friends and inadvertently peeing on my hiking boot due to a steep mountain angle and what I’m convinced to be a crooked urethra, coincidentally meeting fellow Gators at the top of said peak and white water rafting with a precocious, extremely-cultured pair of 4th graders and their New York Times journalist mother. I mean, the kids said I looked like I could be famous (because EVERYONE knows big silver hoop earrings, black bitch shades, and a bandanna holding back my hair is appropriate rafting and hiking gear) so I’ll let my slight intimidation of their superior worldliness by the age of 10 slide and include them on the list. Jesus. They’ve probably already partied with Bey and J at St. Tropez.

Anyways, leaving the dry heat and arroyos of the Southwest behind, I took my flight and landed smack in the middle of Starbucks land and maybe, just maybe, one of the plaidest and whitest places I’ve ever been in my life: Seattle. I can just feel the crisp air now.

One of my favoritest cousins and her then-boyfriend, now-husband and their cutie-patootie puppy-son were living in Seattle at that time so we both figured, “Why not go visit?!”

Seeing that my story is already far longer than I intended, I’ll give the short story of my time in Seattle:

*Fun times with cousin and her boo. Lots of beer. Lots. Of. Beer.

*Quick solo day-trip via train to Portland to meet a kind-hearted and quirky photographer friend and explore the “place where 20-somethings go to retire”.

*In Portland, was able to score a free box of delicious Voodoo donuts. Didn’t have to wait in line or pay nada. Said friend had a friend who worked there and just gave me a big ole box as a present. The kindness of strangers and bad-ass folks who do the damn thing. I mean, this chick was punk by all means necessary–piercings, tattoos, shaved head, attitude–yet also a die-hard cheerleading fanatic. I appreciate the way she made me re-think certain stereotypes.

*Random encounter while walking off of train and arriving in Seattle with a handsome stranger predicated upon a comment about my big pink box (of Voodoo donuts). They are that big a deal, apparently.

*Random encounter coupled with my near-dead cell phone battery led to a flirtation of sorts that wasn’t even intentional (on my end, atleast).

*Said encounter and borrowing of cell phone to call my cousin led to a day-date which further led to a week-long hangouttage with said handsome stranger, having fun, laughing, and enjoying the sights of Seattle.

*One night post-druken hangouttage, our gang of merry revelers find ourselves at the tattoo parlor and the rest is history.

Not really, but you know.

So, yeah, I got my first tattoo in Seattle on a druken night with my ever-loyal cousin Chelsey holding my hand as I hear the buzzing and feel the needles pierce my flesh. My tattoo artist was some newbie from Utah or Idaho or some random state, but he was nice. Not too saccharine-nice where you fear for their safety because they’re just that nice and probably have no street-smarts whatsoever. He was nice in the way you’d want your first tattoo artist to be: someone who listens, draws well, tattoos even better, and doesn’t make lotuses look like artichokes (but that’s another story).

Anyways, first tattoo story and recollection aside and fast forward to today, as I fat-cattedly lay in bed, indulging myself in sour patch kids, listening to the pounding rain flooding my neighborhood and first-floor of our house. I got sick with the flu earlier this week and mistakenly thought I was better until I woke up this morning, all snot-filled and body-woozy.

I was a verifiable sipon monster.

Anyways, I’m the type of friend you want. Honestly, I know one of my strengths is being a good friend. I’m loyal, honest, and will tell off anyone who hurts you or so much as looks at you the wrong way. In the past, I might have even punched them for you, but now that I’m older, classier, and just don’t want to deal with the hassle of assault and battery, I’ll use my words and resting (and active) bitch face to defend your honor.

I’m the type of friend who sends you random “thinking of you” texts or Facebook messages, will fly across the world to eat chicken wings with you on your couch (okay…maybe this is more for me than you, but still…points for traveling), would pick out your earring from the toilet in the Bahamas one Spring Break when it fell in. Ugh.

I’m the friend who prays for happiness and peace and success and firmer waistlines and no stress wrinkles or blemishes for my friends. The friend who would give you the last of my eyeliner so you could look impeccably put-together as I somehow try to pull-off a rough-and-tumbling, free-spirited look that’s really just a nice way to package the fact that I’m nearly 30 and have no idea how to apply make-up or manage my fickle hair.

I’m the friend who, even if sick, will still try my best to commit to plans we made.

I am, by all extensive purposes, a good friend.

And for this reason, I am blessed with many good friends.

Keep this mentioning of my good friend-ness and loyalty in mind as I go back to the tattoo.

So, yeah, the tattoo.

My first tattoo was not something cool like a tribute to the Looney Tunes or a Mount Rushmore of rap legends gone too soon.

It is a simple script word on my left rib. Placed there during a time in my life where I could feel the weight of expectation and time invested gnawing at my insides. I felt trapped in a relationship that was both nurturing and nagging.

I was leading a life of quiet desperation but I knew deep down my spirit had to be free.

This man I was with during the time is by all standards, a good man. I mean, he hasn’t killed anyone (to my knowledge), pays his taxes on-time, is financially responsible, polite, and impeccably-dressed. And, he flosses daily. I should know. We lived together for 2-3 years, was it? Anyways, while I am thankful for the lessons learned during our relationship and our time together, I am more thankful for our time apart and our eventual parting of ways.

Sometimes, the decisions we make in life feel like the wrong ones because they’re tough and inevitably lead to pain, but usually, it’s those tough decisions that are, indeed, the right ones as they lead to a more authentically-led life. After all, the path to consciousness usually involves pain on some level.

I refuse to settle for a safer, comfortable, sham of a life, but I was one ring away from having just that.

(Focus, Leah, focus. The tattoo. Tell them about the tattoo.)

Well, in a way to commemorate my new-found independencisch (prior to this trip, I had “broken up/not broken up” with my former/not-former boyfriend), I chose to jump in and just do it and get a tattoo finally, after, you know, a good two minutes of debating.

My first tattoo is a shoutout to myself to remember to keep faith in life especially in terms of having a suitable partner (hence the biblical placement on my rib because ladies, we are nothing but ribs…absolutely nothing but a rib) and an homage to my mother, Fe Maria. Plus, saying I got a tattoo for my mom (“Fe” is “faith” is Spanish) was a good excuse in case she’d get pissed about it, but props, yo, because my mom’s rarely ever disapproved or gotten upset about any decision I’ve made in my life (except my lip piercing which she said was “classless” only to hang up on me then call me back within five minutes, apologizing, and saying it’s probably cute on me–which, it was). That, and she doesn’t know I have one nor does she read my blog because it’s too damn long. (True…and yeah, that’s what she said. God, you’re so funny.)

Anyways, FAITH (like my tattoo reads back to me).

And friendship.

And how I said I’m loyal.

And that awesome trip when I got my first tattoo, fell in love (or deep infatuation) over donuts which I took as the sign to break up and leave a relationship that was more safe than satisfying.

All this mumbo jumbo about donuts and tattoos connects to today because I had plans to hang with family and friends and attend an awards ceremony. But, when I woke up, the flu I was battling with came back. Even with feeling bad, I was still gonna tough through and commute across town to the awards ceremony for a good friend and co-worker. I canceled on the family party because as a teacher and a decent human being, I was not going to expose my little nephews to my flu germs. Hells no.

As fate would have it, though, I got a slight migraine at breakfast which forced me to nap. I napped and woke up to heavy heavy heavy rains. The hardest I’ve ever experienced in the Philippines yet. And all the while, with the rain and lightning and dogs barking because of the rain and lightning, I lay in bed, smiling to myself, thinking how life is a bitch with one hell-of-a-sense of humor.

Here I was bound and determined (as I usually am) to go through with my plans and all these “obstacles” that I thought were just ways to stop me from doing what I was supposed to–attend an awards ceremony–were probably all in my favor, anyway. The roads were flooded, traffic’s already horrible, etc. I probably would’ve been stranded somewhere, feeling sick and frustrated at the inclemate weather…maybe as riled up as all those Gators at the Swamp yesterday for the rainy weather against Idaho. (Go Gators)

Well, the point is, even in the throws of these tumultuous 20’s and my transition to turning 30, spotted with moments spent mourning a youth unacknowledged, unappreciated, and underutilized, I get funny little reminders that maybe, just maybe, I am on my right path and I am being guided, even if it’s through dead-ends and broken paths and wrong turns.

The way I see it, this “faith” tattoo (and even the artichoke-looking lotus one) are with me for good so it’s about time I start living by them and keep my faith in life, God, the universe, Ellie Goulding and all that is good, and most importantly, myself.

That, and never underestimate the power of a donut.


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