This is the second morning in a row I've awakened from a dream about me being in a different tattoo shop. Not as an owner, or even a fully fledged artist, but either as an "aspirant" or an "assistant." Both shops were crazy, Alice-in-Wonderland different from the one I own and go to every day.
It's not odd for me to dream about tattoo in general, I have been doing it for almost two decades after all. I have three recurring tattoo dreams that are fairly common:
1. I drop into the dream and I'm tattooing something extremely lame on myself, usually a lopsided upside-down happy face that takes up my whole empty thigh. I think "Holy shit, what am I doing?" I feel sheepish and stupid in this dream
2. I realize that I am tattooing with no gloves on yet again. While I never do this in real life there is a feeling of frustrated familiarity about it, as though I have a real problem remembering to wear gloves. I always wonder whether or not the client has noticed, and guiltily slip them on. I feel guilty and careless in this dream.
3. Someone from waaay across the room stumbles or falls and bumps me while I'm tattooing. This causes a great ugly line to come off the design I'm working on and I realize that I'm going to have to work for many extra hours to incorporate this mistake and make the final tattoo look good. This dream makes me feel frustrated and angry.
I have any of these three dreams fairly regularly, but only rarely dream about tattooing in other places. There was one once where all the rooms to see clients were on different floors of a very winding and narrow staircase with a lot of people and dogs moving both up and down between floors. I had an appointment and couldn't find which room was assigned to me, and certainly couldn't ask, that was something I was supposed to know already.
Last night's dream was long, full of detail and different, as was the one the night before.
The first night I was doing a sort of audition in a shop owned by a very famous artist, and the stations were packed in so tightly that sometimes I had to climb right up on the table and straddle the client to get the piece done. I do remember that it was a very good tattoo I was doing (lots of blue and yellow, but the colors were working together nicely.) There were cats and kittens everywhere, jumping up on clients, getting underfoot, and several of the kittens kept getting stuck in a big sink-drain full of water with beans or noodles (something slimy anyway) and I had to rescue them.
At the end of the day the famous artist came in and said I had been accepted there and could start any time I wanted. I was thrilled, this was what I wanted, wasn't it? Except I realized that I was in a dark and unfamiliar location in Los Angeles, and the shop was very crowded after all, and how would I be able to call Michael to come and get me if I didn't even know where I was? What about Flying Colors? Did that mean I'd have to give that up and move to LA?
Here's Mario Barth looking at me expectantly, waiting for my answer as the other artists scurry up the hill of the graveyard across the street and disappear amongst the headstones. I have a feeling of urgency, as though I may be on the verge of missing an amazing opportunity, but all of a sudden I am wondering why I am even there. I can feel the offer leaking out of the moment like helium from yesterday's birthday balloon. There's a choice to be made and I'm afraid to make it.
Last night's dream shop was much different. Very well organized and spacious; obviously decorated by someone with good taste and a general plan in creating the mood of the space. When we all arrived there were many plates and dishes of tasty breakfast treats set out, and I realized that they start their day here with a leisurely, catered meeting about what the plan for the day is. Everyone chips in to clean up, but the sink where I have volunteered to rinse the platters is as high as a normal refrigerator. I can barely get my fingertips over the edge and into the water to do this task.
Then I notice a pad on an easel with things listed, simple words and icons like "Name" and "Old school bird and heart" and I know that while people are between clients they are working on random pieces from the suggested themes. There is no down-time in this shop, after the breakfast meeting it's all business for the rest of the day. "Where is the computer?" I ask, getting ready to download some things to look at while I draw them. "Oh, no one uses computers here, we are all able to draw everything right out of our heads." I realize that my skills are inadequate, I can't draw every single thing without reference material, these people are all very far ahead of me and I don't want to be found out as someone who is not up to this job.
A girl tells me that it's our turn to go get some paper before lunch, and the streets we walk through are almost exactly the same dark and scary boulevards of the previous night's dream. People give hard looks, maybe they want to hurt us, but she has done this a million times and just ignores them.
The trick to finding pads of paper in this store is to find one that is either square or rectangular, and has more than a few pages in it. There are many different kinds here; pads shaped like Christian crosses with the word "Hell" stamped at the top of each page, curved pads in the shape of wine-barrel staves, held together with a brass rivet at the top. There were very few of the kind we needed and it was a frustrating exercise.
On the way back to the shop we passed another shop that had a theater marquee over its door announcing "The REAL Laura is tattooing here!" Great, now who am I? The impostor Laura?
When the shop breaks for lunch we all go to the same restaurant for another meeting and meal. There is much talk about "This Tuesday's event" and whether or not I think I'll be ready for it. I have no idea what this event is, but I've already had a hard time finding the right paper, I can't really reach the sink to rinse the dishes, and I need reference material to draw many different things. Maybe the "Real Laura" could do it, but I feel way over my head and I'm trying to sound like I know what I'm talking about so I won't be found out for the pretender I obviously am.
Across the table is The Red Nun with a very white powdery face and bright scarlet lips. She keeps asking me if I know about the...and I can't hear her. I have to ask her to repeat it several times. The man next to me finally leans over and says "The Sister's silence! She wants to know if you know what that means! It means stop talking!" I tell him that I have some friends who are Sisters from a different order, and this gives me some (but not enough) credibility.
I know that I am in no way qualified to be here and wonder yet again what I was thinking, what about my own little shop that I love so much? I fade into morning awareness with that Red Nun and her whispering ruby lips still haunting me.
My Big Daddy would say that I am every part and every player in each dream. Andrew would say that it means nothing at all to dream about the same things two nights in a row, he doesn't remember his dreams. I wake and ask myself what issues I'm dealing with and why I choose the symbolism I do to represent them in the dream-fields.
I have learned the meaning of the Sister's Silence though, and now I will stop talking.
The real Laura