I have wanted a tattoo for two years but planning an elaborate tattoo with your baby brother, well, isn’t a productive venture. I have also been actively wanting a tattoo of the “does not equal” sign for a few months now but that has been put on hold. With those potentials within me, after visiting the Oventic caracol, one of the Zapatista sites, two times during this trip, I was convinced I needed a caracol (snail) tattoo. I mentioned this to my classmate Niko who also said he wanted to get a tattoo on this trip to physically and permanently mark the memory of everything this has been (that was with a week left of the trip still) and then we made it happen. Because of so little free time it was a mutual pressure. We could have said ‘fuck it’ & got the tattoos back in our respective hometowns, but then it wouldn’t be what it is and it wouldn’t be what it will become. It wouldn’t be the layers of meanings and memories on our bodies. It was in the Chiapas that everything about my art practice and my own being in the world changed to such an extent that I can no longer continue with how it all was. Niko shared this sentiment, as did many others in the course. Mitsu told me: “I’ve only had a few experiences like that. And they marked my life. Redefined things. Amazing.”
Sailing being part of Niko’s identity, he had been designing a nautical themed tattoo to match his other intricate tattoo for two years and decided to get it at one of the tattoo shops. His tattoos are exactly my aesthetic sensibility. With that in mind, Niko and I collectively designed my tattoo (in less than 2 days), and like everything in Chiapas, it was done with no room to breathe and at the last possible minute. He was impressed I went through with it, probably because it was my first tattoo and it seemed somewhat whimsical and ridiculous. The last thing I wanted was to have an idea and not follow through, which is something I know so well and one of the things that the caracol represents for me. The snail is a symbol to guide me with being deliberate, thoughtful, humble, patient and slow. All things that I want to have with me. Now my body has a reminder every time I am too fast, too scattered, too impatient and pre-emptively assuming (which is much too often).
After I showed a photo to Will, he said: “It’s discrete and elegant to the uninitiated, and deliberate and thoughtful—open
Mitsu also said: “I love the snail. It’s funny how in some ways more things happen when you pay attention slowly. If you’re going to get a tattoo it should be for something that marks you like this.”
The day after Niko got his tattoo, we finished designing mine and went to a different parlor in which the artist was gentle and put me at ease. The inside of the upper arm is supposed to be a sensitive spot, but the feeling of the needle ripping through my skin was one of the most satisfying feelings I’ve ever felt. I also have a high pain threshold so the ecstasy kicked in straightaway. I bounced up and down the street while Niko laughed at me. In the end all the people I told laughed at my excitement. My gods! The joy! The orientation shift of my perception!