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When it was over, the grump Saran-wrapped my torso and told me how to take care of my new tattoo. I was barely listening, and I left with a spring in my step. I was happy because the pain had stopped, and because I thought I had somehow outwitted my own sinful nature. I’d made a promise to myself that I could not break without the help of a very skilled dermatologist and as many hours of pain as it took to put it there in the first place.
But the spring was fading by the time I got to 110th street, to the friend’s apartment where I was staying. And the next morning, when I woke and discovered that I had made a large and permanent dragon imprint upon his very fancy sheets, the whole thing already seemed like folly. Questions occurred to me like: Why did I get it on my back, where I won’t even see it? Why did it have to be so big? And why can’t I just look at the sun and the clouds and remember that someone wanted me to be good, or that someone thought I could be?
The great regret lasted no longer than the euphoria, and what settled in me was a combination of the two. But the experience made me more distrustful of making such a covenant with myself. A covenant is about security, but if I am good it is probably because I am spiritually insecure. Maybe instead of trying to quiet my unease, I should learn to live creatively with the fact that I am almost never sure about the right thing to do.
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