marked for life

Breathe on Me, Breath of God

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Fill me with life anew,
That I may love what thou dost love,
And do what thou wouldst do.
Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Until my heart is pure:
Until with thee I have one will
To do and to endure.
Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Till I am wholly thine,
Until this earthly part of me
Glows with thy fire divine.
Breathe on me, Breath of God,
So shall I never die,
But live with thee the perfect life
Of thine eternity.

Edwin Hatch (1835-1889)

there are things in my life that i have to do, that when stopped, would scar me for posterity. like write poetry. love children. be amazed over wishing feathers. swim. collect stones and shells. sleep with my books. hoard and keep specific people in my poetic memory. listen to music. stare at the moon. go crazy once a day.

ever since i was in high school, i wanted to get a tattoo. i thought of different designs, even sketched a few. you should have seen my sketches. a four-year old’s was better than mine.

fast forward to years of boyfriendhood with my ex. he didn’t want me to have any markings on my body. i think he couldn’t accept some of my (crazy) inclinations. he would close the subject whenever i would raise it. one time, i made a deal with him so that he could allow me to get tattooed. when i kept my end, he didn’t keep his end. that made me really really really sad.

fast forward again to my newfound singlehood, and to a moment when i talked a colleague into making a design for me. originally, i wanted the design to be the following: a ferris wheel, a lighthouse and a fallen angel, and several phrases about poetry. i narrowed it down to two elements, plus this one phrase from a hymn i fell in love with: breathe on me, breath of God.

let me get the accolades first. thank you to my trainor who inflicted pain on me to heighten my pain threshold. i know you found it irresistible stabbing my back several times with that trusty (but never to be confirmed if it were indeed sanitized) safety pin. but remember, those stabs were nothing compared to the real deal. but thank you for the boost. thank you to my instant photographer who shot these photos with a K750i. thank you to my illustrator who listened to my demands and who drew a miracle out of my ideas. thank you to mark lavin for the original fallen angel image. i will apologize to you profusely if and when we meet, but please note that this is not plagiarism. you are the real deal when it comes to drawing fallen angels. thank you to alex, my tattoo artist. thank you for letting me curse you when the pain became almost unbearable. thank you for the beautiful piece of work. thank you to my siblings who are loyal in applying petroleum jelly on my tattoo for the past days. and to my mom, i hope you get over the shock. i would have loved to photograph that look on your face when i showed my tatoo to you. i would never forget your exclamation: “ano, nakita nila butt mo!?’ and to my dad, please don’t shout at me when i get to show you my tattoo. (wow. oscar moment.)

the real deal
i went to the shop last monday, june 11. i got there while another girl was being tattooed on her upper thigh. she would sometimes shout, which didn’t help my frazzled state. i gave my design to ryan, who started haggling for the right price. two koreanos arrived. when alex was through, he traced my design on wax paper. he then applied the design onto my back and made me straddle the couch. he then excused himself for a bathroom break. that wait was excruciating.

when he came back, he gave me tips on how to handle the pain and told me to breathe and try not to collapse. he was very helpful, telling me what the next step was. i saw his tools, i saw the needle, i saw the ink. and then i faced front and saw the two koreanos smirking at my bare back. a$$holes.

the first cut is always the most memorable, which is very apt in this case. i got all pale, and my hands got clammy during the first five minutes of the session for the outlining. not to mention i was nursing a fever, my nose was all runny, and my throat all dry and itchy.


you know how a sewing machine works? getting tattooed is like that—your skin is the fabric, and the needle pounds your skin to imprint ink. that’s only for the outline.

the pain is nothing to what i could ever have imagined. it’s 90% painful, 10% ticklish.

note that being tattooed on the lower back near your butt is f*cking, oh so f*cking painful.

for the shading, here’s how it went:

friend: wow, how many needles do you use for the shading?
alex: 7. pabilog sila. tingnan mo.
friend: and then the needles just bear down on the skin, right?
alex: yes
(imagine me rolling my eyes at how insensitive they were about my mental condition.)

so the shading was again painful. when alex was shading the lower part of my back, there were times i would tell him, “shit, alex, wag mo nang gandahan diyan!”

all’s well
when alex took off his surgical gloves, i was elated. it meant the pain was over. he covered the wound with gauze and told me not to swim for one month, since he knew i love to swim. the realization that i couldn’t swim for one month was again painful. he then took photos of my tattoo. the people in the shop were all amazed and congratulated me. the two koreanos were out of sight. one koreano was being tattooed, enduring the extra pressure of the artist’s hand (since all the artists in the shop were vocal koreano haters). i shook alex’s hands and thanked him profusely. he took care of me, he tried his best to minimize the pain, and that was very sweet of him.

i couldn’t sleep on my back for two nights. i also have to apply petroleum jelly before and after baths. my jeans are a torture to wear, and i have to choose tops that don’t cling to my back. tattoos first swell, throb a bit, and then go all itchy when the ink really dries up. skin comes off in bits, too. this is when you know that the healing part is starting.

the fallen angel’s name is luna, and she has broken her wings by the lighthouse. if you want to hear her story, you have to come nearer, and place your lips by her bruised back. that’s when you’ll know the sound of “angels falling like rain.”

luna by the lighthouse


2 thoughts on “marked for life

  1. Micky says:

    Three years ago I was wandering around [mental hospital] completely shattered physically, emotionally and spiritually. The mental torment I was experiencing was absolutely terrifying. Every waking second, I was having horrifying images from my past. I thought I was being punished for my past sins. My whole life flashed before my eyes and I felt I had failed miserably in my journey through life. The whole experience was an awakening [THE LONG DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL] a metamorphosis. God was slowly penetrating the shield I had put up all those desperate years. I had no “I” – that is what God wanted for me, to become Christ centered, not “I” centered [in retrospect]. There is nothing in this world, but the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. He eventually delivered from my HELL; when I got down on my knees and asked for mercy and forgiveness for my sins. Praise the LORD!!

  2. evaluna08 says:

    Hi Micky,

    Thank you for your honesty. It’s really true, His light can fully be seen in the darkest of nights. I’m really happy for you, at how you’ve grown in God’s love. May you stay there under His care even when the strongest of storms overwhelms you. I want to share with you the lyrics of this song, you’re probably familiar with this. 🙂

    As the Deer
    by Martin Nystrom

    As the deer panteth for the water
    So my soul longeth after Thee
    You alone are my heart’s desire
    And I long to worship Thee

    You alone are my strength, my shield
    To you alone may my spirit yield
    You alone are my heart’s desire
    And I long to worship Thee

    You’re my friend and you are my brother
    Even though you are a king
    I love you more than any other
    So much more than anything

    I want you more than gold or silver
    Only you can satisfy
    You alone are the real joy giver
    And the apple of my eye

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