Faced with an Empty Page

Opening a new, white and pristine page can be one of two things. It’s either exciting, pulse-raising and inviting, or terrifying, threatening and off-putting.

It doesn’t matter what sort of page this is – it can be a new page in a much used notebook, the first page of an unopened one, or the electronic, virtual one that comes up in a writing program.

No matter what emotion arises when faced with a blank page, the demand that it throws is undeniable. A blank page craves to be filled, to be written upon with ink or to be full of coded letters.

There’s nothing worse than opening a new page and feeling the terror bubbling in your throat, the pressure building up behind your eyes, in the crevices of your very mind. The emptiness seems to call to the very soul, demanding in loud and certain tones what it needs. Sometimes, fear can lead the way into the second, better emotion. Once a page starts to fill up, the demand lessens, the pressure recedes, and bit by bit, the terror evaporates.

There’s nothing better than opening a new page and feeling the excitement bubbling in your stomach, the itch in your fingers as they long to start writing and the images that jump around your mind, urging you onward, ever onward, so that you can’t resist putting down your pen to the paper or your fingers to the keyboard and beginning to write. When the page fills up, bit by bit, a sense of pride in your own words filling up such a space is added to the other emotions, and it too spurs you onward.

Sometimes, when a page is full, it demands another page to be opened. It’s not finished yet, the emptiness of the next page tells you, you must continue.

Sometimes, when the page is full, it’s enough. The urge, the need and the drive all quiet in you, and you can look at the full page and know that you’ve completed something, even if it’s not finished, you’ve put something down on the page, and there it will stay.

Being faced with an empty page is an adventure, whether dream or nightmare.

Ink

A curly-haired guy in his early thirties sat back on his swiveling stool and snapped the black latex gloves on his hands. He picked up his tools, dipped them into the tiny ink-cups, the size of a fingernail or so, and pressed down with his foot the switch that connected his tools to the electric current. He adjusted the current, making the needles buzz louder, dipped them into the ink again, and began his work.

The two girls sitting in the room with him were vastly different. One was experienced already, having undergone the process earlier that week. The other- well, the other was me: nervous, afraid, excited, ecstatic. I’d been waiting for this for years, known it was coming for years, and had waited patiently for years to prove to myself that I wouldn’t change my mind. Even through the height of my nerves, it felt right. I felt right. The buzzing in my ears, the slight shivers in my body, my legs positioned awkwardly and my arms propped on the armrest I was facing- it was all exactly as I’d imagined it.

“Take a deep breath,” the tattooist said. “I’ll touch for a second and then stop.”

He touched the needles onto my skin. It seared and felt like fire and then, just as abruptly as the pain had come, it was gone. I breathed. My body shook. Then he said “Ok, now let’s continue.”

At first I couldn’t control the shakes. Having a tattoo done on your spine makes your nerves, your physical nerves, tingle and jump. My arms felt like they were buzzing with currents, and my shoulders shook uncontrollably for a few minutes. But I mastered myself, my body, and the pain. It became bearable – even enjoyable in a perverted way, because it was pain that was marking my body with a beautiful design, one I’d chosen years ago.

But it did hurt. It felt like someone using an excruciatingly sharp marker on my skin – I could feel the tattooist coloring in the lines, the needles going back and forth on my skin. Again and again he wiped away ink and blood with a paper towel. Again and again I breathed in a sigh of relief when he loaded the needles with ink again and let my skin breath and relax for a few moments before beginning again.

When it was done, I had my design. I had my tattoo. I had my ink.