I could taste metal.
Her Foerster clamp grabbed my lower lip with the tenacity of a pit bull intent on winning its owner’s affections. The light was aimed right at my eyes so that all I could see were the silhouettes of the other people in the room. Then I tasted rubber. The fingers of her left hand were in the outer portion of my mouth, and I could not protest to the next thing that she did. I tasted semi-formed fears and petroleum jelly.
I felt cold steel on my exposed skin.
Then the pain – tight, pulsing, raw – possessed my entire being. She guided the metal slowly, deftly. My nerves screamed at me to stop the hurt. In a few seconds before I could make up my mind to just leave, it was all over. The rod was already through. In a few more seconds, she’d locked the rounded tip in place. She checked me and marveled that there wasn’t any blood. She looked a bit wistfully at the amount of paper towels and Q-tips she prepared on her tray for the occasion. They were going to the bin now. Then she removed her surgical gloves and began sterilizing the equipment used for the session. She saw that I was still there, observing her cleaning up so pronounced that I was good to go. I was to wait outside to pay up.
There was now a handful of people out front.
Some were negotiating inking prices. I heard one lady ask if the artists gave discounts for coverups. A male staff was wrapping up bottles – a customer’s order of skin ink. I looked at the S&M collection displayed on one wall. I was in the midst of identifying the purpose of a string of metal beads on display beside bottles of multicolored lubricants with space-age names when the girl who was responsible for driving a piece of metal rod through my lower lip came in from the back room.
I paid up, signed the log. She gave me some after-care instructions, but before I could say my thanks and ask her how old she was, she was swept away to answer a woman’s question about degrees of pain; the customer wanted a picture of a hibiscus on her right shoulder blade.
Well, the piercer girl looked no more than 15, and her livelihood requires her to pierce human flesh with sharp metal rods. But she was good at what she does, I can tell.
Once my senses have quieted down, I left the shop and retraced my steps to the house to hunker down for work, the glint of steel winking from my lower lip each time I catch a glimpse of myself on storefront windows. I suddenly feel free. But that could be the endorphins and dopamine working overtime.
It’s one of those mornings.