It was February 2000; I was in Memphis, TN visiting my old and dear friend, Hoss. He took me out on the town. Hoss is well known and well loved by everyone that comes into contact with him. So, it was no surprise every bar and club we walked into he knew groups of people. He took me from bar to bar to bar introducing me to a lot of people that I still don’t know. And every bar we went into we of course had a drink. 

Upon leaving our umpteenth bar, snow began to fall as we walked down Beale Street. Ah, Beale Street is where it is at that I was feeling all of the drinks I had had that night. I wasn’t stumbling, falling over and slurring my speech drunk. I was feeling quite good…I was feeling quite relaxed…I was feeling quite confident…I was feeling I needed a change. Right at the moment that I was feeling I needed a change we passed a tattoo and piercing parlor.  

Oh, how I had wanted to get a tattoo or body piercing for a long time. Tonight was going to be the night.

This place was small, smoky and crowded with half naked tattooed and pierced people. Male and female. And here I was in a button down shirt, khakis and sans tattoo and body piercing. But my mind was made up. I wasn’t leaving there until I had a change. I chose to get my tongue studded. That was the change I wanted…to put a piece of metal through my tongue.

I picked out the stud I wanted. I was led to a backroom by a big, bald, tattooed and pierced man. I was met in the backroom by a smaller, bald, tattooed and pierced man. 

He told me to sit in an old brown, torn up dentist chair. I sat. He told me what he was going to do and what to expect. He told me to stick my tongue out. I stuck my tongue out. He placed clamps on my tongue and squeezed. He asked if I was ready. I shook my head confirming that I indeed was ready. 

He said, “Okay. I’m going to put this needle through your tongue. Don’t flinch or jerk your head. It’ll rip a hole through your tongue.”

I slightly and carefully shook my head acknowledging I heard him. 

He continued, “Once the needle is in your tongue I’ll slip the stud in over it and then screw the ball on. Don’t move your head until I release the clamp. Okay? Ready?”

Not wanting to shake my head again I decided to make a sound. It’s a sound one can only make when they can’t move their tongue. Go ahead stick your tongue out, grab it and try to talk. That is the sound I made and from that sound this man, that was getting ready to stab my tongue, gathered that I in fact did understand him and that I was ready.

In one swift motion he stabbed my tongue. I barely felt anything. This guy is good I thought. A few seconds passed and I’m like this isn’t so bad. He begins to slide the stud over the needle and into my tongue. The stud gets jammed. It isn’t sliding as smoothly as I thought it would. He applies a little bit of pressure and then more and finally the stud slides on down. He screws the ball onto the end of the stud. He removes the clamp and hands me a cup of mouthwash. He tells me to swish really good and spit and repeat. 

I swish, spit and swish and spit and then I felt a change.

My body tensed up. I felt an enormous amount an adrenaline rush through my body. I’m hot…my body felt like it is on fire. I felt sick. The guy looked at me. I must have looked pretty bad. He said to me if I’m going to throw up to do it over there. He's pointing over to the corner. I looked and saw a toilet and sink. I thought to myself, “I bet that toilet isn’t very clean. There is no way I’m thro…”

I made a mad dash for the toilet. I began to hurl and didn’t…couldn’t stop. The guy who just stabbed me was standing next to me running the water in the sink. He kneels down beside me and starts to rub the back of my neck with a wet cloth. He says, “It’s okay, man. Don’t worry about it. You’re not he first to get sick and you won’t be the last.” 

He wets the cloth again and places it on the back of my neck. He rubs my back, “Are you okay, buddy? Take all the time you need.”

When I left that place…changed…I continued to throw up all the way down Beale Street. 

I’m not sure if there is a moral to this story or any particular wisdom I can impart on you. Perhaps, if I can contribute anything to your life from this story that is, if you’re in the mood to make a change and it involves alcohol and tongue piercing, make sure you have this guy there to help you through it. 

©2013 Westerman Publishing

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