Two Lines for Two Decades
I'd rather have someone cut my flesh open and make me bleed than have someone prim my nails on any given afternoon; is that strange?
I like doing things that make me experience and endure change; mentally, emotionally, physically, they all add to character and contribute to constant personal evolution, ensuring I go forward instead of staying static or regressing. So when an opportunity arises to delve into something new I jump at it. This was the case when I happened to be on the Baja Peninsula of Mexico and having drinks with a piercer/scarification artist.
I had been on a bicycle tour for 7 months all around Canada and the U.S. and was stopping in La Paz for a few days when I was hooked up with IAM: Rafael who owns a shop in town. I had a semi-large cutting done on my calf a year earlier and was excited to have another without any sort of anesthetic (the journey is just as important as the final product for me so I prefer feeling the pain), so when I learned Rafael was willing to use his scalpel skills on me I was surprised (free modifications for a travelling bum is an unbelievable treat) and excited. I had hung out with Rafael for a few days, had seen his shop (very clean and sterile) and portfolio (all his cuttings were stunning and well done) and had confidence I was in good hands. I didn't have a clear idea as to what design I wanted scarred on me but I knew it had to be something fairly small and easily accessible. The easier it was to clean and the less chance of it chaffing or festering in my body's healing juices under my bike clothes the better.
It didn't take long for me to recall a shallow cutting I did on my arm a while back; two parallel lines around my forearm just below my elbow. They were too shallow to have left a scar but I remember loving how they looked and decided to have the same design re-cut on my other arm. I thought about how the cutting on my calf looked fresh (http://www.bmezine.com/scar/A50720/high/bmegl101857.jpg) and how it disappeared and blended in with my skin even when I took care in healing it properly, but I didn't mind how permanent this new cutting would be; the process is my favourite part.
With the design and placement ready, I waited for the scheduled time and walked over to Rafael's studio with my friend, trying to settle my nerves from becoming overly jittery at what was to happen. We arrived on time, told Rafael what I wanted and watched as he put it onto transfer paper. He wiped down all the surfaces where my arm would rest while he worked on it, unsheathed the scalpel blades from their new packaging and put on new gloves. When he had all his tools out we put the stencil on my arm, checked for placement and symmetry, all agreed they were good and I took my seat under the light.
Before the blade hit my skin I kept thinking back to a video I had seen on ModBlog of a guy getting a very large cutting done on his whole chest/torso and there was a close-up of the scalpel repeatedly slicing over the same area around his nipple, ensuring the depth matched all the other lines. It represented a type of pain I had not yet gone through; cutting open a fresh cut. I admit, I kind of cringed at the thought of it happening to me but my curiosity for what my head would be going through to counteract the pain had me fascinated and I ceased to fear the sensation. I heard Rafael ask if I was okay and ready, and I nodded in affirmation.
As with so many modifications, the time it took from start to finish seemed to melt together and I struggle to document everything accurately. I remember the inside of my arm (the part that doesn't get tanned as much) being far more sensitive than any other area. I remember how much easier it is to look away and think about other things than it is to intently see the blade slice you open and blood pour out, only for the blade to go over the area a thousand times more (or so it seems). I remember how amazing it looked as it took shape and the skin peeled back as it was freed of its layer of connective tissue that held it together, the cut opening up without any skin being taken out. I remember being in awe at how well I was taking it, knowing if I tried to do this to myself I wouldn't be patient enough to endure what I'd be inflicting upon myself. I remember Rafael asking me how I was feeling every so often and me subsequently doing a mental check making sure I wasn't about to pass out. I remember Rafael changing blades once or twice because they were becoming dull. I remember smiling big in defiance of how much I wanted to scream instead. I remember feeling high and the blade still slicing through me. I remember being tired, almost numb to what was going on, and then Rafael slowing down and looking at me more than he was cutting me and how happy I was to know he was nearing completion.
I stood up to look in the full mirror and then up close to see if any areas needed a little evening out. A few more minutes of touch-ups ensued and we were all satisfied with the product, at which time I allowed myself a big sigh of relief and let Rafael apply saran wrap. I was to keep it covered until it began to heal enough to where no liquids were escaping. His healing directions were vastly different than my other cutting; instead of tending to it for a month, covering and uncovering the area twice a day, I was to simply air it out and make sure it saw some soap occasionally, making an effort to avoid any foreign objects from sticking in it. This was great news because I certainly didn't have the environment to be nursing it all the time (aside from when I was staying in a city for a few days, I always camped outside). I had no idea what to expect my cuts to look like after they were healed but I was just content to have been worked on by a great artist and great friend.
During this cutting experience I realized how much of a difference it makes to know and to have spent time with the artist. To sincerely trust and enjoy being in their company while being modified is such a change from just walking into a shop, paying money and being pierced (or tattooed, or anything else). If I ever have a large sleeve or backpiece tattooed on me I will certainly choose my artist not solely on their abilities but also for the chemistry between us. It makes the whole situation that much more memorable, and life is made of memories.
As I write this, it has been almost 2 months since I was in Mexico and my arm is looking so much nicer than I expected it to be. The first night I ever washed it was in a hostel in Mexico and the water made it tingle, which I didn't think was a good thing (I had heard mixed opinions as to the quality of tapwater in Mexico so I wondered if I should have used purified water instead), but, nonetheless, no complications came of it and a thin scab was forming within a week. I'm very glad we decided not to do a connected band around my arm and instead have it cut on the upper surface and not the underside; some nights I awoke because of how tight the skin was pulled and I had to reposition myself to loosen the skin slightly and I think if the cut went all the way around that discomfort would only be heightened. I tried to keep the scab moist with cream (the only stuff I had was organic body lotion but it worked fine) and I began noticing a faint keloid forming. I hadn't expected any keloiding to occur (I was under the impression that my caucasion heritage wasn't conducive to that type of scarring) but I had hope that maybe it would stay - and it did.
Right now the keloiding is quite raised, although it's smooth with the rest of my skin in some spots as well. It takes on a beautifully dark purple hue in the cold and all in all I'm 100% happy with how it turned out. Although the lines were chosen for their simplicity and placement more than anything else, my friend commented that they would also represent my two decades on this planet (I have recently celebrated my 20th birthday), which made me like his concept and now I plan to have another band cut on my arm for every decade hereafter, hopefully by Rafael every time.
submitted by: Anonymous
on: 07 March 2007