Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Blacklight Ink and Vague Conversations

"You said you didn't want to hear it."
"What? When did I ever say that?"
"Last night!"

I still do not remember ever saying I do not want to hear what Melody was telling me. We both chalked it up to a garbled transmission courtesy of Skype and a horrible internet connection on my end. I hate this being the only way I can speak to my best friend. Especially if she is going to be left with the impression that I do not want to hear what she has to say. What is interesting about her slight accusation is there is the possibility I have, in fact, said the words "I do not want to hear it," but more than likely in passing or in joking. It is just the way people communicate--vague expressions and phrases that mean nothing to the person saying them, but could mean everything to the person hearing them.

While I try not to get caught in this kind of "conversation" (or "non-versation" as my favorite YouTube guy, Alex Day, calls them), I have learned to comprehend the person's intended message through their ramblings. I have a tendency to pick up on the small things people say quicker than others do.

I do not think this is a talent. I just think I listen too closely.

Conversations often are disconnected, lost and left unfinished because of the ways people have for escaping moments of vulnerability, to which deep conversations often lead. I forget sometimes that I have a best friend who does pay attention to the small things I say, which can lead to confusion when I have a tendency to leave a preposition or question hanging in the air, tauntingly over her. One would probably assume I have learned my lesson by now, but not even ten years can prepare me for curve-balls like, "You said you didn't want to hear it."

Melody and I talk about everything. She is the one person I know that will let me say everything until I get whatever burdens me out of my head. She understands that I need conversation. Real conversation. One of the topics we managed to cover the other night was the depressing state a couple of our friends have left us in as of late. It is as if they left their social skills at home and have spent too much time at college on themselves. They act selfishly and put us last. It is a sad place to be, but at least I have her with me.

One of the things that amuses me the most about our friends is the idea they have of the "college life" when they are far less experienced in most of those areas than even I am. I keep most adventures I go on to myself, because I am not the only one doing things, and I feel no need, unless there was a moving significance behind the time spent, to prove to others that I lead an exciting life. I do not like to brag and I try my best to stay humble, to a degree. It keeps me in my place and does not make me miss the moments when my friends truly need me or the moments I could be sharing with them. These days, it seems a couple of our friends are more concerned with how many pictures they can be tagged in on Facebook than how many moments actually become memories.

Last night was one of those nights just worth mentioning; the clich├ęs were through the roof. It would have made for an interesting MTV movie, to say the least.

Around 2:00p.m. I was in the laundry room, studying the washer intently, hoping I did not dispense too much detergent into the machine, when I received a call from my friend, Crystal. She said she was getting a tattoo and she wanted me to be there. I assumed she meant a permanent tattoo. I am not sure how Crystal became acquainted with this guy, but he insisted in giving her a blacklight ink tattoo because he has a passion for tattoos and is fascinated with blacklight ink. She agreed and later explained the details of a blacklight ink tattoo to me.

I have gone with my father to quite a few tattoo parlors and considered a tattoo for myself, but I had never heard of a blacklight ink tattoo until she mentioned the one she wanted to get. "I don't really want to go alone to this guy's room, and I want a friend with me." It was all starting to become clear. I was unsure of what the procedure was for a tattoo that leaves a scar and only lasts for two years at the most. Quite honestly, it seemed like a waste of money, however, I was willing to go with her, because I did not want her to be alone either during a procedure that was going to take place within dorm walls.

The kid was dressed in a wife-beater and basketball shorts. His desktop computer was hooked to two large stereo-quality speakers and blasting any kind of rap one could imagine, from the over-played, chart-toppers, to the lesser known songs. "Do you like Daddy Yankee?" Crystal asked him.
"I'm not Puerto Rican! I'm Mexican!" and gestures to a Mexican flag draped over a corner of his desk. I giggled. I could not help it. It was a funny reaction to a seemingly innocent question.

Crystal's friend, James, had joined us. The asking price was 90-dollars, and James has handled business with the tattoo-artist-to-be in the past. James knew he could, as Crystal put it, "hustle him" for a lower price. And he was successful: Crystal only paid 20-dollars at the end of the night. The tattoos on both of James' wrists looked as though they would have only cost him about that much, even if it had been professional--they could have passed for a painful experience with Henna rather than permanent art. When James looked down at his wrists before we entered the hall, I suddenly cringed. Why was my friend willing to go through with this? Even if it is just blacklight ink, there are other more suitable places to get tattoos.

Crystal had a piece of a poem she really loves carved into her back with the tool. Until she mentioned it was supposed to last for two years, I had not expected the guy to use a real needle. I half-expected some cheap form of Henna or those entertaining glow-in-the-dark temporary tattoos one purchases from a vending machine. And to add to even more humor (and possibly horror) while the speakers continued to blast explicit lyrics spat at a record speed, the large television in the corner of the room was on mute and the captions activated so whoever decided to watch the marathon of Cops currently airing, would not miss a thing. It was like a scene from a movie where the writers take every stereotype possible and throw it into one character.

After an hour of blood and scarring, the tattoo was complete. I decided then and there I would not get my tattoo done from him, and I would not get a tattoo that only lasted two years after going through all that pain for it. Definitely not worth it, but she is happy. I suppose that is all that matters.

I have more stories--stories I know I do not have enough energy to tell to everyone I know. But after one night doing virtually nothing, my aforementioned, unnamed friends will gab about the experience as if it was the most amazing time of their life. If I did tell my friends all the little adventures I have had this year, they would soon learn one trip to a bar does not make them party-animals. However, I know my stories are not what they want to hear. In fact, it is better to keep my adventures to myself and laugh about them when I am alone. I do not want them to feel inferior, nor do I want them to try and make me feel that way. It is easy to argue that true friends would not do that to one another, but I am trying to let them grow and be who they are now. They will figure out who they are; I know I still have growing to do. I told them I would stick by them and the great thing about it is, I only have to hear their more self-indulgent chatter the few times we come home on the same weekends. Any other time, they are far from me. Thank you, college.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Why I Listen

Photo Source

I do a lot of listening. It is a proven fact that most people like to talk. I could take the route of cynicism and say it is because they are self-centered. And while I do agree with this statement, I think I am going to veer away from the predictable negativity and look at this simple fact from a different perspective: my own. When I am given my chance to speak, it is freeing and relieving. It is my only real form of catharsis. Some people have found more active--often destructive--ways to relieve stress, however, I am not one of these people. So, I find someone who "has the time" to devote their attention to my sudden need for human contact and I speak. I try to be brief (often with fail), but I just release any feelings holding me down. I do not like to burden the people in my life and because I am a happy person, I try not to overbear anyone with this need. Like I said, I do like to speak, but I am first, and foremost, a listener. And the ability to converse with others is not just good for a few rants and complaints. Talking is a major way to build a relationship with someone. At least, all the "quacks" say so, and while I would, typically, try to steer clear of anything Dr. Phil or Dr. Drew promoted, I believe them to be right.

Last week, I was able to get my first interview with the faculty advisor for a club on campus. It was for my first story as a freelance reporter for my school's student paper. I was nervous until I walked into his office. We smiled and joked and he gave me a good bit of information to use. The whole conversation made me realize why I fell in love with journalism. I had forgotten one of the biggest reasons that journalism really felt like the place that I belonged: interviews--people's stories. In the short amount of time I have worked on school papers, the interviews have always been the biggest excitement for me. I am able to meet new, interesting people and hear their stories and feel their passion in the topics I am covering. It has always been an amazing rush for me. I had been doing so much listening in the past for friends and family, it had never occurred to me, until I started writing for a paper, how it had become a finely-tuned skill that I could use in more aspects in my life than just being a supportive shoulder for a friend. I still do a lot of listening, on the record and off the record, because no matter if I am being made to cover a story, or I am just getting to know someone, listening is what I do. And to be honest, people are more uncensored than they often realize when the other person is quiet and gives the speaker the chance to let their mind wander.

I am not entirely sure if I will always write for a newspaper--online or a physical publication--but my dream is to one day go somewhere amazing, meet some amazing people and record my experiences and the stories and lives I meet along the way. I will feel even more fulfilled if I can do all of that and photograph what I see. There are jobs for such a thing. I want to be moved by what I see and hear, and I want to move others through my recordings. I want to do so much. I just hope my short life will allow for such a dream to eventually come true.