Why Dragons?

One time, at work, a customer handed me cash payment. I hadn’t cared for him from the start, something about him seemed off. But his fingers touched mine when he handed me the money.

It was like someone had poured a bucket of slime over my hand. Lasted for hours. I washed my hands, sanitized them, scrubbed them raw. Still had that feeling.

I get a lot of crap for not letting people touch me. Can you see why I keep my distance? Even the lightest touch on my shoulder or back, if I’m not familiar with the person, will leave weight and cold. It’s almost like a sliver of ghost hanging out on my skin. People who I am familiar with, depending on who they are, may fade within a few minutes. Still, it is seldom pleasant.

Tattoos then, as you can probably imagine, are like someone touching me with a chainsaw. The sensation never goes away. I can always feel the tattoos on my skin, am always aware of them. So when I get something done, it’s kind of like grafting an extra limb onto my body. I’d better hope that I like it.

But, why the dragons?

Growing up, dragons were the symbol of the devil. Babylon, the great beast. Somehow, I never feared the beast. I wondered why it was so inherently evil.

My next experience with dragons must have been myths and folklore.

The first time that they became a real, solid aspect of my view of the world was also the first time I read horror. My grandmother had books I wasn’t supposed to read. Of course, I read them anyways. By 13, I’d read most of Shakespeare, Tennyson, Peretti, Dekker, creation-science books, CS Lewis, DSMIIV, some really weird Christian-cult stuff, and the Lost Books of the Bible. Most of those weren’t supposed to be read.

So when I went sneaking out to my favorite hiding place with Peretti’s THE OATH, I had no idea. I must have been looking over my shoulder for weeks.

People, for a kid who is very aware of how not-saved she is, the Dragon of The Oath is a scary beast. But I didn’t hate him. I wasn’t afraid of him all that much. Hello, mental scarring and emotionally twisted.

Smaug, Glaurung and the other dragons from Middle Earth sealed the deal. I was firmly rooting for the big bads.

That fascination might have stayed mild, except for the dreams. I’ve had four dreams–that I can remember–about a black dragon. All of them were vivid and have remained with me for over 2 years.

I knew that I wanted a black dragon on my shoulders. My artist drew. I have two dragons on my shoulders. Asian and Western. Red and Green.

These dragons as complicated, difficult, expensive, vastly painful. I have a lot of time to think about them, to absorb their meanings and implications. As a result, each has taken a bit of a personal meaning, focus and interpretation.

The red one is what I am. The red-haired war-witch, the Dragon Lady. Wisdom and Courage.

The green one is what I’ve had to be. Strong. Armored. Perseverance, Focus.

I feel them there. Ghostly reminders to never let the past run me down, to keep the future in its place. Reminders that the dreams and nightmares are just that: dreams and nightmares.

To brush off the slime of other people. To override a thousand other, smaller touches. My skin is clean, where they are. Only that quiet echo of needles and thought.

That’s why the dragons.

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