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Breath & Shadow

Fall 2022 - Vol. 19, Issue 4

"How To Remove a Tattoo"

written by

Nina Adel

You got them the same way as everyone else: you were born into the world. You grew here. The world has its standards, its expectations. People raised you. They were flawed, like everyone else; like you. They named you: Small. Hyperactive. WeaklingSuper-sensitive.

Later, you earned other names, other markings: Sloppy, Snaggle-toothed, Seaweed-headed, Wild. Older names. Sexy. Irresponsible. Mouthy. You wore them close, coals pressed down hot into the epidermis: Thunder-thighsFlighty. Artist-type. Fuck-up. Saditty bitch.

Paranoid. You lived the names till you grew sore, their image branded into subcutaneous tissue.

Then you wanted to remove them. You learned all the methods there at your disposal:

Surgery. There may be scarring, scabbing, heat. Living with the tattoo, though, can also bring this.

Use anesthesia.

Use whatever you like.

Try dermabrasion. Sand the layers down raw. Open the stained spaces of the skin so the ink will leach out. There may still be traces, shadows of identity. Use ointment.

Try skin graft. Replace the skin entirely. Try cryosurgery. Cold aloneness. The tattoo is frozen, then burned off. Try the chemical peel. Heat your skin, scrape away the layers, scrape away the people.

Try rubbing it with salt and insult, rubbing it to faintness. Use a removal cream, the least painful way, costly over time.

So use acid. Trichloroacetic. Hydroquinone. Marriage. Alpha-arbutin.

Get used to the scarring. Cover it with makeup.

Or take it off with lasers, with pulses of light, with concentrated beams.

With living.

An MFA graduate of Hamline University, Nina Adel recently won the Bellevue Literary Review’s 2020 Buckvar Prize for Nonfiction and has been published in Moria, Sweet Tree Review, Selcouth Station, Linden Avenue Literary Journal, The Tennessean, among others, and is a Glimmer Train honorable mention recipient. Once primarily a singer-songwriter, she lives in the heart of Nashville with her two children and teaches writing at a local college. She’s also the manager and instructor for the Creative Writing for Immigrants and Refugees program at the Porch Writers Collective. Follow her on Instagram @writethinkspeak.

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