Changed again; for good
I was lucky enough to be in LA for work at just the right time, sharing a hotel room and car with a coworker I had met the week before. I told him I needed the car for the night. And not being a good liar (actually, I have an agreement with the universe not to lie at all) I had to tell him where I was going:
And then I had to explain it to him. Twice. And then I had to explain myself to him. I only tried that once.
I am going to skip the formalities at the door of the event. Suffice to say, I was nervous and excited just to be there. I think I came across as someone who shouldn't be there and made some other participants a bit nervous. Everyone was very courteous and once we established that I was not a spy and that I was there to have work done they were downright friendly. I met with Thorsten and showed him my rough sketch. He looked it over and told me that he could have a stencil ready the next day. We set a time and I, giddy as I was, had to leave.
The next day dawned early. As with some of my piercings in the past, I woke easily that morning, knowing that before I slept again I would be making a lasting change to my body. I felt my adrenaline tapping me anxiously on the shoulder throughout my day at work. Once the job was done and I had cleaned up at the hotel I jumped back in the car.
When I arrived at the event there were fewer people mingling in front than there had been on the previous night. I identified some BME celebrities in the smaller crowd- I got the chance to thank both Rachel and Jordan for their hard work that has allowed me to meet so many people that have changed my life. It was less than five minutes before Soozie came outside and told me it was my turn.
Thorsten took me upstairs and shaved a strip down the side of my leg where the work would be done. The stencil was awkward- the usual challenge of getting flat paper with straight lines to conform to flesh that is neither flat nor straight. This process took a good 45 minutes and two re-tries, but came out to everyone's liking.
Downstairs again, I tried to get comfortable on the table while hands were washed and gloves put on, packages opened and all surfaces cocooned in disposable plastic. We decided to start at the ankle and work up towards my hip.
First cut... hard to describe. There really wasn't much pain. It was almost as if I could hear something happening. Not that the scalpel actually made a noise, but rather that I experienced something that didn't really register at the time, but left me with an immediate and intense memory. The sensation was a sort of loud afterthought.
Sure. Let's do it.
As Thorsten worked, the pain slowly became more and more present. Not any more intense, but more relevant, more palpable, more real. I spent the next few minutes debating in my head how to proceed mentally. Should I go someplace else- meditate in a sense- to avoid the pain? Should I distract myself by talking to these wonderful strangers around me? Should I watch him work and focus on the pain, knowing that this is how it feels to effect deliberate change? I decided to try a combination of the latter two.
I found that I suffered less- not hurt less, but suffered less- if I relaxed. Someone (I have no idea who, but thanks so much!!) held my foot for awhile. Others held my hands and brought me water.
The pain worsened as we got closer to my knee. I expected this, and all that it really meant was that I had to try harder to relax. What I did not expect was that it would get even more difficult as we left the knee and moved even higher. My upper leg- the part that I had thought would be the easiest- was the most intense of all. In a way, I'm glad for this, as it provided a sort of action-packed finale or climax to the whole process. Once the worst was over, it was all over.
I was photographed, then had my leg wrapped in plastic. I made my way to the door, torn between wanting to stay so I could meet new people and the fact that I was too hopped up on adrenaline to stand still. I resolved to come back the next day to socialize in a more relaxed state.
The following morning I woke up to find that I had bled through the plastic wrap and the pants I was wearing and had stained the sheets. Sorry 'bout that, but I'm sure hotels have seen worse. I walked to the shower and resigned myself to the sting of water (well, of anything) on an open wound. I let the water get just more than lukewarm while I stood in the tub and peeled off the plastic wrap, dropping it in a gory pile at my feet. When I gingerly turned my leg into the water, I was relieved that there was no pain.
But only for a split second.
This time, the pain hit me like a brick. It took my breath away. I was able to lower myself to the floor without passing out, but I'm not sure how. The rest of the shower was a slow, excruciatingly painful process that took the better part of an hour. I would rinse a bit, writhe in pain, then recover. That's how the instructions should read: Rinse. Writhe. Repeat. On subsequent days it was not nearly so bad- just a good, heavy stinging. But that first morning was a killer.
I returned to Scar Wars that night after work and was re-photographed somewhat more formally in the studio a block or so away. I held some hands and some feet for other people getting cut. I tried to thank everyone involved, but was never sufficiently able to convey my gratitude. I left happy and eager to see everyone again at the next event.
I generally subscribe to the LITHA strategy of healing piercings and tattoos, and it serves me well. With this, however, my goal was different. With my earlier body art it was always my goal to scar as little as possible. This time I wanted a lasting mark. I had to actively prohibit my body from healing too peacefully.
The solution? After about a week, when I could stand under running water without difficulty, I got a fingernail brush and a bottle of Provon soap. (See where this is going?) At the end of my shower, once the budding scabs had time to get nice and soft, I'd start scrubbing. I use about the same amount of Provon as one would use of toothpaste- one continuous bead the length of the brush, then scrub until everything was raw. Scrub. Writhe. Repeat. It was pretty rough for the first three or four days of scrubbing, then seemed to get easier from there.
Now (five weeks later) there's no longer any pain during the morning scrub. I do notice some tightness when I wake up in the morning or if I've been sitting in one position for more than a couple hours (happens a lot at work) but it feels like stretching a stiff muscle- just some soreness and pulling during the initial stretch, then all is normal.
Reflections? I haven't had as strong a philosophical response to this as I did to my first suspension or even my first visit to Burning Man, but it is my first "large scale" work. I don't want to discount the importance of my piercings, tattoos and other ritual experiences, but I feel like with this scarification work, I've finally reached a point of no return. I really mean it now, whatever "it" is. I've dedicated my body to my body. And in a way, I think it's really appropriate that it was specifically a scarification piece that did it for me. Scars are an internal product of the body reacting to outside influence. In a larger sense, I am my own product, influenced by the outside world, but ultimately shaped only by myself.
submitted by: Anonymous
on: 11 April 2006