Getting piercings from your brother (Part 2 of 2 (bit longer than Part 1, though))

18th February 2021

Zak drove me downtown and parked in front of a dilapidated shopfront with faded signage that said, ‘Holes in your skin, not in ya wallet.’

“Wow,” I said. “You sure about this place?”

“Yeah, why?” he said.

“No reason.”

Of course I was apprehensive, but Zak and I hadn’t seen each other for a while. The day felt like a milestone for our friendship too. Up until now, Zak would’ve winced at matching anything with me. After all, we’ve had our differences, Zak and I. And when I say differences, I mean I tormented him as a child.

Among a booklet of pranks and beatings, I convinced him to give me his new birthday helmet because I told him my shabby one made him faster. When I was six I gambled away his Royal Fair money—which my parents entrusted me with—on the child-equivalent of a slot machine. And I blamed him when I stole Snicker bars from my parents’ newsagent.

As adults, though, Zak put the folly behind us and, against all odds, we finally became friends which, I believe, the matching piercings symbolised. So I wasn’t going to back away now just because I didn’t want foreign objects shooting through my infection-prone earlobe in what looked like an abandoned deli, was I?

Inside the piercing deli, a woman handed us forms and we filled them out. Then another woman appeared and said, “Who’s next?” She pointed at me and curled her index finger toward herself. “You. Follow me.”

“What?” I said. “Me?” I looked at the other woman, holding my form.

“Yes,” the form woman said.

Staring into the dark piercing room with the brash lady holding what looked like a nail gun, Zak’s friendship suddenly became inconsequential.

In the room I sat on a massage table. Next to the ear-weaponry, the table looked out of place. Was that the deli's way of calming patient's nerves? I thought.

Relax, I imagined them saying, I might be holding a clamp-like tool with two metal javelins on the end, but you're on a massage table.

“Just turn your head,” she said. I winced. “Don’t worry,” she reassured me. “Nothing’s going in yet.” Then she began fondling my earlobes. “You have a good set of earlobes on you.”

Thank you? The remark brought a loud silence, so I said, “What hurts more, a piercing gun or a needle?”

“A needle,” she said, pulling out a needle.

At this, goosebumps popped up. So to calm myself, I made conversation. Rather, I asked questions to gauge her experience. Naturally, I didn’t want to get my ear stabbed by someone on their first day.

“So what got you into piercing?” I said.

“Mum. This is the family business. That’s my cousin out there,” she said, referring to the form lady.

That the business was family-run was reassuring, at least. “So then how did your mum get into piercing?”

“Funny story. She used to pierce wild hogs on the farm, back in New Zealand. Tagging. Full on work, that was. Bloody work. You had to wrestle them into position and stick a needle through their septum. A needle like this, actually.” She held up the needle to the light.

“Ha-ha-ha-ha. Wow. That is funny.” I studied her eyes, trying to gauge whether she was joking.

“Okay, just relax.”

"What?" I felt my ear lobe turn hot as the needle slide in and back out.

“See?” she said. “That wasn’t so bad.” She wriggled in the earring. “Oops,” she went on and held a rag to my ear. “A little bit of blood.” I glimpsed at the material soaked in red before she applied more cloth and tissues. I realised then I’d never felt so much compassion for hogs.

The bleeding didn’t stop as I sat outside, waiting for the lady to pierce Zak’s ear. I had already exhausted half a box of tissues, but, of course, I wasn't worried. That’s what the body does. You stab it. It bleeds.

I only got worried about my condition when Zak emerged without a drop of blood. In fact, Zak already had an earring in the other ear, and I didn’t know which one was new. That’s how untouched he looked. "Should I be worried about how much this is bleeding?" I said to the lady.

"Ah-h-h. I don't think so," she said.

You think? Or you know?

For the rest of the day (and the week, actually), my ear failed to stop looking like a victim of a Mike Tyson punch. “Oh my gosh your ear!” people said. “What happened? Are you okay?”

“It’s just a piercing,” I said.

“It looks really infected."

Still, I persisted. I was determined to keep this one.

Two weeks after the field trip, Zak called. "What's wrong?" I said. He's never been a big caller, so I thought he was in trouble.

"Nothing. Just calling to see how the ring's going?”

"Oh." I was in the kitchen and I stared at my reflection in the window. The lobe was red and grotesquely swollen. “Really good,” I said.


I touched it, recoiling in agony.


“Yes, a bit sore,” I said.

“Mine’s fine,” Zak said.

"I'm happy for you."

“But you like it?”

No person driven by reason turned to his friend and said, "Let's get matching piercings!" Sentimentality, on the other hand, is the fleeting hand that leaves those unfortunate indelible marks: Tender feelings come and go; Initials of your ex-girlfriend on your bum cheek remain. I know this. Yet here I was, nursing a bloody hole in my body in the name of my brother.

“Yeah. I really do,” I said, turning side on to the mirror. "I really do." The ring glistened under the kitchen's fluorescent lights.

. . .

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