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  • “Now don’t say no,” says Addie over the phone, pausing briefly before adding, “Do you want to get a tattoo with me?”
    I process her proposition and after three seconds, confidently reply, “Of course.”

    Another five minutes go by and Addie’s plum colored van with questionable air conditioning, torn leather seats, and peeling bumper stickers pulls up in front of my house. On my way out, I call to my mother, “Addie and I are going to downtown Annapolis for a bit.” I’m almost to Addie’s car by the time the door slams behind me.

    For the entire twenty minute ride to the closest tattoo shop we could find on Google maps, Addie and I are half laughing, half shouting nonsensical sentences roughly pertaining to our disbelief of what’s about to happen and what’s going to happen if our parents find out their daughters—seniors in high school—went on a rogue mission to Annapolis for tattoos. Turning onto West Street, we see it. Pride and Glory Tattoo Studio; a seafoam green building with black trim, attached to a Papa John’s on its left.

    We try to compose ourselves as we get out of the car and head toward the door, letting out an occasional burst of noise. It takes us a full thirty seconds to walk the ten feet between the door and the front desk, hesitantly taking steps and looking around as if we are waiting for someone to tell us to turn around and go home. But we are both 18, both impulsive Aries, and both determined to get tattoos on this Tuesday afternoon.

    Once we make it to the desk, an older man in a plain t-shirt and jeans named George with faded tattoos up and down his arm and an assortment of piercings on his ears loudly states, “Well hello ladies. What can I do for you?”
    “We wanted to get tattoos,” Addie and I say, almost together, but not quite, still letting laughs slip out through our suppressed grins.

    After a slight smirk from George, some pricing negotiations, a couple drawings—George tells me my rough sketch for what I want “looks like a raisin”—and fifty dollars from each of us, we’re on our way back, moving deeper into the seafoam green building attached to a Papa John’s.

    As we’re waiting for George to set up his machine, we curiously watch a couple artists in the back of the shop; one is bent over a drawing and the other is casually eating pizza.

    “Want some?” asks a tall and lanky younger man with many more tattoos than George, and all of them seem to be gleaming with fresh coats of ink.

    Addie and I shrug, each grab a piece, and sit on the plush rolling stools that are scattered about the room. While eating our pizza, we both take notice of the large daisy tattooed smack in the middle of his throat.

    “Didn’t that hurt?” I ask, faintly touching my own neck and shuddering at the thought of letting someone drag a needle across it.

    “Not really,” he responds. After taking a bite of his pizza, he adds, “I was on a lot of painkillers.” Addie and I shoot each other side-glances and nervously continue eating our pizza.

    “All set?” asks George, peering out the door of his room. We enter the room and take in as much as we can. The room is about the size of a large bathroom, and looks like a punk rock doctor’s office. The walls are lime green with a similar black trim as the outside and covered with framed drawings of American traditional tattoos; cherry red hearts being pierced with swords, dainty birds with outstretched wings, and pin-ups with bashful yet seductive expressions. George plays heavy rock from his phone, which is placed in a plastic cup as a makeshift stereo.

    Climbing up on the black leather table and lifting my dress past my hips, I point to where I want my tattoo—on the outer side of my right hip—and George lays on the stencil.

    “Good?” he asks in reference to its positioning.
    I nod, lie on my side, lock hands with Addie, and feel the reverberating electric currents controlling the needle in the tattoo machine spread throughout my body.

    No more than ten minutes go by and the tattoo is finished. I let go of Addie’s now crushed hand, sit up, and look down at my hip and see it. A small, minimalist outline of an open book, no larger than a quarter; my first of many tattoos.
    Tattoos as an art form have been around for centuries and frequently serve as symbolic forms of strength for many cultures.

    On that Tuesday afternoon, I chose to symbolize the strength and confidence that the English language and its multitude of literature have given me with a small, open book my right hip. A quick peek down my jeans or skirt reminds me of this confidence and helps me face each day with wild curiosity.
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