Feeling the Pop

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Today I got a helix (top of my ear) piercing.

Nothing special about that – but there is a unique attractiveness in knowingly mutilating your own body.

Whenever I get a piercing done, I have to make the decision spontaneously. Obviously I will consider what I might like as I daydream in the preceding months, but I won’t reach the point where I actually want to do it for a long time. Then all of a sudden the urge will hit me, and there I will go, usually alone.

What I always find astonishing about piercings is the way in which you become so suddenly aware of your own mortality. The body seems to sense that it is in danger as you lie back on the cold chair; the heart goes mad like a flapping bird, I feel the pulse at my neck, and the red emerges in my cheeks. What makes things so much worse – inciting a feeling of terrible guilt for crimes against my own body – is that I am CHOOSING TO DO THIS! I’m so sorry!! My hands vibrate a little, clammy, my laughter shaky and much too loud. I am entirely aware of the exact thickness of the shell of my ear, that periphery of my body which I don’t even look at, much less pay attention to, every other day. I am aware of its consistency, its rubbery texture, the miniscule palm of veins spread through it. I am aware that the blood filling those tiny rivulets is rushing faster than usual, which will enhance the already inevitable bleeding. Oh body, if only you knew that you are not helping yourself…

I spot the dreaded needle on the surgical tray to my right. Fuck, it’s a lot thicker than I thought. And that’s going through my ear!!!!! As my piercer (is that what you call them? Doctor; butcher?) snaps on his blue rubber gloves, chattering away, I notice some scary-looking instruments surrounding the needle. As it turns out, these are actually just to prise open the hoop and push it back together again once it’s through my ear. But still. It looks like I’m about to undergo a full-on operative procedure.

In the end, it didn’t even hurt. Somewhere in between the deep breaths I had been told to take, I barely noticed the needle sliding through the hard cartilage. I actually had to confirm that the Deed was Done. I was aware of a slight popping sound as the neat little hole was made, but very little pain.

I exit the shop grinning like a fool and in a hyper-hallucinatory state. Everything looks different to when I came in. I notice different things. Hell, I’m a different person! No one gives a shit or even notices despite the fresh scarlet shade of my ear, but I know. I just hole-punched a microscopic segment of skin and shoved a metal hoop through it, and what? World, get ready. That’s what a piercing does to you.

And oh, the release of tension! With the wave of relief and adrenaline which accompanies the pop, I feel my worries and tensions ebb away, like a deflated balloon. It was precisely what I needed. A shot of shock and a slight physical alteration to bring me back down to Earth and stop my head from wandering to places I cannot yet go. It also looks quite nice, by the way – piercings are therapeutic, man.

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