Ah College, a heavenly two year period where you’re free to discover who you are outside the shackles of the secondary school popularity contest. A time to take up the subject of philosophy and pontificate about categorical imperatives and the finer points of utilitarianism like a group of learned professors rather than the feckless seventeen year old idiots you actually are. A time to smoke cigarettes in coffee shops when you should be in lectures, a time to get eyebrows pierced, bleach your hair and wear a selection of ridiculous clothes that would make your average tramp appear well heeled. Generally, a time to be free to make mistakes knowing that they won’t come back to haunt you in later life. Unless of course one of those mistakes is etched onto your body for all time in black ink.
It’s second year and myself, Balluner Le Crisp, and a few other friends had formed a fast bond, mainly over going to local pubs with a tenner, convincing the bar staff that we were in fact above eighteen, when we clearly weren’t and getting shizzlefaced. After a particularly boozy session, probably involving cloudy cider, we decided what better way to mark our new found bromance than permanently scarring ourselves for life?
What to get inked we pondered, for all of ten minutes. It needed to be simple, small and most importantly cheap. One of the lusty leopards involved said that he had an idea and drew a circle with a triangle in it. It looked OK, maybe a little bit like the triangle on a Playstation controller but that was probably just me who would notice that, I naively thought.
“Book us in” we cried.
A couple of days later, five of us walked into the parlour, four who were getting It done and one guy who wanted to rubberneck the car crash. I was up first. I wasn’t nervous as I already had one ropey tattoo, a cross on my back which I got after seeing Baz Lurhman’s Romeo and Juliet thinking mine would look like the masterpiece on the back of Peter Posthlewaite’s Priest (try saying that quickly three times). It kind of looks like that, if the tattoo artist had drunk the ink and urinated the shape of a crucifix on my back. I’m not even religious for God’s sake. Anyway, the tricircle took about three minutes and felt vaguely unpleasant. I looked down and felt a mild sense of disappointment and then a creeping fear that I would be stuck with this for eternity and that it wouldn’t even be covered by a t-shirt as the ‘artist’ had done it too low.
I walked out and in the four minutes it had taken one of our posse had sensibly backed out after getting cold feet, which left two. Luckily, they had balls of, well, flesh and went and did the business. We left the parlour which was aptly named as at that point it felt like someone’s funeral and went and got steaming drunk.
In the years that followed we had to deal with various questions about the tattoo:
“What is that?”
“Why did you get it done?”
“Are you mentally retarded?”
“Are you three in some kind of twisted homosexual cult?”
“Did Sony pay you to do that?”
But it wasn’t until I turned twenty one and went for a crazy weekend in Vegas that I realised the full horror of what I had done to my body. It was 3am and I was trying to get a drink in a Coyote Ugly style bar. In a ‘story of my life’ moment, in a bar with 20 of the hottest women I’d ever seen toting bottles of booze, the lone male bartender is the one who asks what I want.
The conversation went like this:
Bartender: “What’ll it be?”
Me: “A beer, please”
Bartender: “Are you sure you want that beer”
Bartender: “You really want it?”
Me: “Yes, I really want the beer?”
Bartender: *Lightly takes my hand* “You’re sure?”
Me: “Dude, I’m in a bar, get me the beer”
Bartender: “OK, it’s just, well, you’ve got the Alcoholics Anonymous symbol tattooed on your arm, which normally means you’re clean”
So there it is, me and two friends have got the AA symbol tattooed on our bodies forever. Let this be a cautionary tale, unless of course you actually are a straight edge, reformed alcoholic in which case, have at it. I can even recommend you a good tattoo artist.