when we decided to go to rome this fall, i dove into a search for local tattoo artists. i found a glorious one almost immediately, but it was clear that her style would make my back look funky: the blackwork i have is woodcut-inspired, ill-suited to share space with goddesses. i settled into following her on instagram and figured that would be it.

my beloved—yes, beloved—ladymag announced that it would be departing from print a few weeks ago. i sat with that news for a long time, and it hurt much more than i imagined it would; publishing has made me tremble for more than a decade now, but motherfucker, i thought the old girl would survive. i was its research chief for a long time, so i used to field the calls that had nowhere else to go: could you tell some more stories, the elderly readers said, i don't know where to go for stories anymore. my ladymag was no longer the one that published prestige fiction decades ago, but it remained, in These Modern Times, one that gave women a place to convene.

i stayed up for a long time and thought about that, and about a departing editor-in-chief's comment about how what she would carry with her from our office was the sound of women laughing. the sun started clawing its way over long island, and i wrote a note to the artist who was too intricate for me: hey, i have the good fortune to be in rome next week and, while i imagine you have no time, might you be able to tattoo a moth on my wrist? so many things happen to our bodies that we can't control, and fuck it, i wanted a beautiful insect on me. i wanted gorgeous vermin, i wanted to feel like myself. her first note came back the next morning, so i decoupaged a google image printout on my arm. three days later, just before we saw the magic flute for my birthday, she said she had time for me later in the week; a two-day job had taken her just one day.

joe dislikes tattoos—unfortunate, given that i had two when we met and have acquired several more in the decades we've been together—and told me, you don't have to go through with this if you don't want it. at that point we had been in rome for nearly a week, and a hummingbird hawk moth had visited our terrace's flowers for five nights. it's been three weeks, now, and the antennae peek out of my sleeve every day.

No comments: