Eventually, two gentlemen came to the counter, one of whom I recognized as the artist/ owner I spoke with three months ago--Kyle. My husband joined me just as I heard the owner mention his 2 o'clock appointment, one with an owl. He must have felt me staring as he looked up and said "Are you my appointment for the owl? Come on up and take a look."
Kyle showed me the drawing on his tablet. It looked plain, just black outlines. He had mistakenly added a fifteen instead of a fifty-one, so he said to give him a few minutes more to work on it.
With the number corrected, we discussed the size. It was a bit bigger than what I had anticipated--too big for me to feel comfortable with the original location of my forearm. He said it would help to visualize it better once he printed out a copy and cut it out. It did help; after some discussion with my husband, I decided my upper arm would be a better fit. We stood at the counter for a few moments while Kyle was refining the design to print onto the transfer paper, before he mentioned it would take about twenty minutes to get everything set up. My husband and I sat back down on the wicker loveseat and perused the catalogs of the artist's previous work.
Getting called to the back, Kyle rolled up my sleeve, prepped my arm, and placed the transfer. At first I liked the placement, but after looking down at my arm, asked for it to be moved forward a bit so I could see it better from above. He nicely did so, erasing the first impression and re-applying the paper. It looked just right, so I sat down in the dental-office-looking seat with my husband sitting in a folding chair at my side.
The inking began. It was more bearable than my ankle tattoos had been, and I quickly got into the "zone" of feeling the vibrations dulling the sharpness of the needle. My husband stayed for a few minutes to make sure I was feeling okay, then left to do some more grocery shopping.
Kyle made small talk about school, goals for my upcoming fifty-first birthday and year ahead. I asked about his schooling and training, if the cute little girl who came in earlier was his daughter (she was), and chatted about my own daughter living in Japan, where tattoos are still a cultural taboo in many areas.
Once in awhile Kyle would pause to change needles or ink, and I would look down to see his progress. The black outlines were being filled in with beautiful shades of green and gold. Before I knew it, an hour had gone by, and he pronounced me "done".
Standing up to look in the mirror, I loved what I saw. A beautiful owl, reading a book entitled "51". Kyle placed a clear bandage over my new tattoo, gave me a paper of after-care tips, and thanked me for allowing him to create this new piece of art.