My Tattoo Reminds Me Of Submarines

If you can remember a date, that makes it important, right?  On March 15, 1995, my dad and brother flew down to Sacramento after my dad got a call from his father.  Two days later on March 17, my mom and I went out for Chinese food and came back to a blinking red light on the answering machine.  December 31, 1999 must have been a bad day for me, because I remember shouting “BAD NEW YEAR” at my brother, to which he replied, “You RUINED my millennium!”  On October 2, 2009, I saw a now-prominent NPR host drink way too much and make an ass of himself at a karaoke bar in Seattle’s International District.

I don’t remember the day or even the month, but that doesn’t make this memory any less vivid or meaningful.  I think it was sometime around late November or early December…it was cold and wet, and I remember it being fairly dark out when it wasn’t particularly late.  Regardless, I remember almost everything around me as John’s gloved hand held the buzzing tattoo gun against the inside of my left forearm.

Since that moment, every time I hear the beginning of Yellow Submarine by The Beatles, I remember what felt like flaming knives being dragged through my skin.  It was my first tattoo, but I have been with friends as they go theirs.

“It doesn’t hurt!  It kinda tickles, actually…”

And I believed them.  Three thousand little pin-pricks every minute drew a noticeable amount of blood, yet they giggled.  I expected the same—perhaps maybe something akin to a bee sting, but not nearly as much as I felt.

“In the tooooown, where I was booooorn, lived a maaaaan, who sailed the seeeeeaaaa…”

I gritted my teeth as I watched what would eventually become the left wingtip of a dove being etched into my skin one pinprick at a time.  FLAMING KNIVES.  Of course, mind over matter—and just like I grit my teeth and sit through my weekly massage therapy appointments to help me recover from a recent car accident, I sat in that sterilized chair for an hour and twenty minutes as an absolutely gorgeous black-and-white dove with an olive branch was skillfully created on my left forearm.

The dove serves as a reminder that I have never thrown a punch in my life, and I will die a happy man if I never have to.  Whenever anyone asks if the dove has meaning, that’s what I tell them…but every time I look down at it, …

“In the tooooown, where I was booooorn…”

-Nick Kennedy