I have always wanted a tattoo ever since I saw Eve’s (American artist-for those born in the 2000s) video of who is that girl. Her chest tattoo was so enticing and daring that I made sure not to miss the video on ‘The Beat’ everyday at 5pm. This art that represented rebellion was awoken in me and I couldn’t brush it off.
I definitely wanted it for all the wrong reasons at first but as I grew up from my childish ways, I still craved for ink. I wanted the freedom it represented, indicating that I was now in charge of my own body and actions; that I can actually pay for the things that I want and be who I want without having to check with anyone. I wanted a sign that I was actually growing up and I could take responsibility of my actions as well as live with bad decisions regardless of anyone’s opinion. If at all it was a bad decision.
I was more than willing to get under the needle compared to when I was a child and I had to take those immunity shots every now and then. It gave me unrelenting peace and tranquility to feel self inflicted pain and no one could deter me. On the dawn of 24th August I had already made up my mind on the ink I was to get and where exactly I was to commit this familial atrocity. I thought of many things that morning; but first I thought of my mother.
She is not exactly the ‘you can do what you want, shida yako’ mother. She is very hands on when it comes to anything that is wrong or distasteful in her eyes. The type that doesn’t need to raise her voice or smack the living sense out of you, all she needs is to stare at you with her morbid eyes and you come down apologizing and call yourself names on her behalf. She doesn’t have volcanic emotions but getting this tattoo would surely make her erupt. It would be world war iii in this house. I could picture her standing over me and me looking up to her double chin and smooth face turned tomato. I let out a quiver as I sat on my bed contemplating.
I then thought of my future husband and his family. My bride price will definitely be lowered if I go through with this. He would probably love that I was bold enough to get tatted but if his family got a whiff of what I have underneath my clothes, they wouldn’t approve one bit.
I thought of the conversations of ‘ huyu ameharibika’ or ‘hawa wasichana wa Nairobi’ that would be spoon fed to him in my absence. In laws are not known to be barrels of laughs and pleasantries. They would probably shame my mother for raising a spoilt girl and it will be an endless string of bashing for ages. I got into my beddings despite the clock ticking to 12 in the afternoon. I dismissed the negative thoughts as at that time I did not regard matrimony as an exclusive carnal arrangement that will last till death.
I am not genetically programmed to be easily deterred or one to follow other people’s beliefs or moral standards. I simply do what want; a trait that has landed me in more bad than good but trust me it was all indulged without any regrets. I have always had a grim streak that destabilized my entire decision making. After seeing most people live within the confines of ‘what the society would think’ or what their parents would say, I am more than happy that I do not give a hoot. All these people who are in mental prisons chances are that they are unhappy and live envying other people who are free spirits.
I stood as solitary and motionless as a heron at the stage thinking of this rudimentary exercise that I had to partake in. I thought of my ancestors, those who actually tatted their whole bodies; the most powerful women had ink all over them some in red ombre and other in pure black. I thought of the whole heritage and I knew I should have probably worn sisal around my waist and free the nipples. Perhaps I am a bent coin or maybe I just want a life worth living.
I was surprised by my own composure; to have my interests not wavered in the slightest as much as I was battling scenes in my head. Main character was my mother and others as well, mostly faceless people asking me why.
I met my cousin who encouraged me to appease myself with rum but I preferred gin. My friend from school had also accompanied me to this ritual of berserk adulthood. The chama cha wazee began partaking the libation as I laid face up under the careful watch of the artist. The noise emanating from the machine was less than pleasant to say the least; I have no idea how people manage to drink and get inked at the same time. I soldiered on and took the needle as I should; sober like a traditionalist. My nerves were wrecked, shallow tingling spread out to my toes and hair. It was intolerable. I wanted to cry, I wanted to run and I sure wanted that gin which was by then over.
More friends streamed in to witness this debauchery and offer their support. After four hours of wriggling in pain, it was over. And I swore I would never go through another one ever again. It was a lie. I loved what it represented, I loved how it was elusive to another person’s eye and I loved that it had red. I was channeling the empresses in my lineage, they would be proud.
It was the first day my mother was to see me completely stark naked and I knew I had to tell her prior before she lost her shits. I knew the goats would not learn ballet and I couldn’t avoid her for life. I was admitted to the first hospital bed near the door; strategy would allow me to slip out of the premises quick and with minimal physical and emotional damage. If worst comes to worst I was in a hospital and I would actually make it. I kept trying to secure myself on the far end of the bed but she forced me to lie down and help me get in the proper clothes. I was stalling to allow my emotions settle and she probably sensed it.
The nurse came in and started fixing the drip; she was fixing the wrong drip unfortunately. It was my moral imperative to be a grown up and say the truth but those who believe this have not been raised with the African set standard. I had abetted in my own destruction. She looked down on me in despair and assured me it will all be okay.
I seized the opportunity and flashed her tattoo. She groped her mouth in utter shock and let out a shriek ‘my Mercedes’. I smiled on sheepishly as I expected a worse reference; I nodded stoically and she looked on morbidly depressed. I had let her down but I was just happy to have let the cat out of the bag. She couldn’t do anything at that point; she avoided scolding me as the admission to hospital was already punishment enough. She neither delivered any quavering oratory lamenting the demise of her precious priceless daughter nor did she lift her finger to shun the devil that allegedly tormented me.
I was safe, unhealthy but safe…………………………….