It’s cloudy and rainy when we walk into the piercing shop in Brasov, Romania. One of those bone-chilling days where the right idea is to stay inside and do nothing. But, with a new city outside my hostel door, sitting inside is the last thing I want to do. So, with a new friend at my side, the two of us venture out. And, end up in this little piercing shop.
“I’ve always wanted to get my nose pierced,” I announce to my friend as we stare at the selections.
“Well, you should do it,” he says.
I let the thought cross my mind, and quickly let it leave.
Truth: I’m a chicken
I don’t like holes. I don’t like needles. And, when I was younger, I had my ears pierced and my body hated the foreign studs so much, it fought back and caused a fierce infection, eventually the skin around my ears closed up around the posts.
On the day of my birthday in sixth grade, hands clasped tightly in front of me as the doctor pried the metal from my ears, he sealed the fate of piercings: “You probably should never pierce anything again.”
So, I took that to heart.
But, on that day in Romania, after years with a fake hoop I’d pop in my nose every now and again, I let the idea roll about.
That day was not the day, but one day.
“Here’s the deal: if you meet me in Morocco, I will get my nose pierced then. But, you have to hold my hand.”
“Done,” he says. And then we go and drink tequila at a Mexican restaurant just off the main square. Because, that’s what one does on a rainy day in Romania, right?
Fast-forward five years.
Screw you, Fear
After a week of rain and chilly weather, the skies clear and a royal blue greets me when I step outside. It’s an Indian Summer in Madrid, and I’m embracing it.
In the week after Thailand, my brain has been a mess. I’ve questioned everything in my life and then questioned it some more. I’m stuck. Like, seriously. It’s been a troubling time for me as I strive to understand the meaning of “home” for me.
So, I turn off social media for the weekend and, at the suggestion of my therapist, work again at being mindful.
I say “yes” to invites. I go out. I meet people. I come out of the bubble I’ve been living in for months and try to live out loud.
When Brandy and I walk into the tattoo/piercing shop off of Gran Via, it’s for her, not me. But, there we are, standing in the shop.
“You know, I have wanted to get my nose pierced for years,” I inform her.
“Si, claro?” She asks. “Why haven’t you?”
“I’ve always been scared. I don’t like needles. Or holes. And, a piercing combines both of those things.”
A cute girl who works at the shop approaches us and I mumble something about being interested in piercings. And I am, but sortanotreallybeacuseImachicken.
“She says it is quick,” Brandy translates.
“Does it hurt?” I ask, knowing damn well it will.
“She says that it won’t hurt that much.”
“That much,” I scoff.
“And that your tattoo hurts mountains more than a nose piercing.”
I roll back my sleeve and look at my tattoo. A tattoo I wanted so badly, it didn’t matter the pain involved. Even when I was sitting on the chair in my friend’s jungle hut, I stomached it because I knew it would be over in minutes and then I would always have something so special be a part of me.
“I don’t know …” I trail off.
Do I want my nose pierced? Yes. Do I want it badly?
If you had done this in Romania all those years ago, you wouldn’t be having this conversation. Chicken. Chicken. Chicken.
“I don’t know,” I repeat, waiting for some surge of bravery to take hold. The bottle of wine we shared before this visit didn’t fill me with liquid courage. Then again, when we were drinking the wine, I didn’t know I was going to end up in a piercing shop.
I stand, staring at the row of titanium studs, battling my fears. They bubble and I try so hard to swallow them down, but they come right back up. My hands start to sweat. My heart rate quickens. That feeling of anxiety I dread threatening to spill over.
“I’m going to puke,” I whisper to Brandy. “I don’t think I can do this.”
“You can,” she urges, smiling.
“Will you hold my hand?”
“Si, por supuesto,” she says.
I teeter for a bit longer, unsure. So, I call my parents.
“I think I’m going to pierce my nose,” I tell them into the phone.
“Why on earth?” They both ask. Then, it’s a few reasons not to. “Scars.” “Pain.” “Needles.”
“But, I really want it,” I tell them.
“Then do it,” they say.
I swallow my fear momentarily and walk back to the wall of studs.
“OK,” I say, a rush of bravery. “You’re right, Brandy. I want this. And, for some reason, you’re always around when I make impulsive decisions like this.”
The girl hands me the titanium with a little diamond housed in its blue casing and directs me upstairs.
“She can’t go,” she explains to me, gesturing at Brandy.
“What? No. She has to,” I say, ready to run. “Brandy,” I turn to my friend, “please convince her or I don’t know if I can do this.”
She tries, but isn’t successful.
I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know.
“I need to push myself”
“D, you will be fine. You can do this,” she says, encouraging me gently. “It’s quick.”
“Si, quick,” chimes in the girl.
“OK. Fuck it. Let’s do it,” I say.
So, I walk slowly up the metal stairs to the piercing area and sit down, waiting. It’s the longest 10 minutes I’ve waited in a while. During the time, I message Brandy downstairs and tell her I’m scared. I message my friend Will and tell him I’m going to puke. And, I message my mom and tell her I need to prove to myself I can face more fears, and this is one I need to handle. I need to get out of my comfort zone. I need to push myself to accomplish the things I want in life without letting fear hold me back.
It’s quite the analogy for everything which has been happening lately.
“Do it,” she writes.
Then, the door to the piercing room opens and I suck the air hard through my teeth.
The nose knows
It’s a tiny, sterile room with a table covered in blue paper. Next to it is a tray covered with piercing supplies.
“Do you speak English?” I ask the brunette covered in piercings.
“A little,” she says.
“OK. I’m really sorry. I hate needles and I hate holes and I’m scared.”
“That’s ok, you will be fine.”
You’ll be fine. Maybe that’s all I needed to hear. Someone telling me it would all work out. Piercing. Life. Whatever. It’s interchangeable.
I climb onto the table and sit down, averting my eyes from the torture devices.
“They call me ‘Flash Hands’,” my piercer informs me. “I am very quick and it won’t hurt.”
“OK,” I breathe in, smiling. “I’m ready.”
“Close your eyes, I’m going to walk you through it.”
I sit on my hands, just in case.
“You’re going to feel me put something in your nose and then I am going to pierce it, and then I am going to put the piercing in.”
“So, breathe deep.”
Then, she’s done. I open one eye and look down, where I can see the tip of the needle planted in my nose. I feel my face go ghost white.
Idiot! Close your eyes. Close them again immediately.
“OK, breathe deep again,” she instructs. This time, she inserts the stud. I can feel it pinch and pull and it hurts, but only momentarily.
Then, it’s over.
“Done?” I ask, blinking away a tear from my right eye — a reaction to the piercing, not a legit tear from pain.
“Si. Done.” She smiles.
I get up and she reaches her arm out to hug me.
“Oh my god. Thank you. That was easy. I can’t believe that was it.”
I hug her, tell her I love her (that’s ok, right?) and then bound down the stairs to show Brandy.
“You did it!” She exclaims, then holds up a massive plastic bag filled with wine and beer. “We shall celebrate.”
And, celebrate we do.
It isn’t the nose piercing I’m celebrating. I’m celebrating facing a fear and conquering it. To not letting a moment of discomfort keep me from what I want. Today, while it was little, I jumped my own hurdle and fought back against my mind. And, it felt fucking amazing.