In honor of Patty Mato’s 25th birthday, and to get back into memoir-style writing, I wanted to share this short story with y’all. I’m hoping to do more of these to share my favorite memories with important people in my life, so be on the lookout!
I have a confession, one that may not be surprising to anyone that’s seen me in the last year: I have a funny-looking tattoo.
It’s a little waning crescent moon on my left wrist, facing out so it’s the first thing you notice if I’m writing or drinking a cup of coffee. The ink is a little dotty, it’s not very dark, and the bottom tip is a little dull.
It looks a little funny compared with my other two patches of inked skin (a Venus symbol above my right elbow and a rendition of Pilot Mountain on my ribs). But while I love all my tattoos, this one is different.
This is the one my best friend gave me.
Patty Matos and I met because we were going to be spending a week together in London for a class. It was the first semester since I was hospitalized, I had quit my sorority, and I was feeling a little unsteady about it all.
I got a text from my friend who was studying abroad, telling me I should befriend her roommate for next year, since we’re in the same class and all. So one of the first days of class, I introduced myself to her.
I don’t know if you can explain Patty with words. I think the first thing that always comes to mind is a line from One Direction’s “Girl Almighty, ” a line she has her own tattoo for: let’s pray we stay young, stay made of lightning.
Patty is someone I’m convinced was created with a kind of spark that most humans don’t have. There’s always something new she’s excited about, or something she’s ready to tell you. She is one of the few people I’ve met that knows more pop culture more than I do, and she has a closet full of patterned dresses and witty t-shirts and a dresser covered in makeup she’s collected over the years.
But don’t think for a second Patty is vapid. She is caring and she is passionate. She is someone that is great at knowing what she wants. She reminds me every day that it’s important to stand up for what you believe in, even when it’s uncomfortable.
Fast forward a few months, and stick us in the middle of a snowstorm. I’m staying with Patty, her two roommates/friends, and another friend seeking solace from the cold. It was day two or three of being in a house with one bathroom and three cats, but it was good. It was a pause in time, where our impending finals and the impending future of graduation didn’t exist. It was just friends and cats and falling snow.
I had been joking for a long time that I was going to let Patty give me a stick-and-poke tattoo (she has a kit and is a master bullshitter, and thus has convinced us all that she kind of knows what she’s doing). And as we sat altogether in this tiny house in Carrboro, it just felt like the right way to commemorate the week. I wanted a moon tattoo for years, so it just made sense to me to go ahead and get it.
Anyways, the stick-and-poke process hurts like hell and I almost passed out because I hadn’t eaten anything in hours. And as soon as Patty went over it a second time, we realized we had to stop because my skin was swelling. She said she’d touch it up once it healed.
It’s almost been a year, and we haven’t touched it up.
Patty moved to Iowa to work on a certain Senator’s presidential campaign. I still live in North Carolina and work in media. Both of us are learning who we are as fully-functioning adults.
I don’t think I’ll ever let her touch it up, honestly. It feels like a sort of promise — it is a perpetual reason for us to meet again.
I have a funny-looking tattoo of the moon, but I refuse to call it bad. It’s a tattoo that reminds me every day that things don’t have to be perfect to be lovely, and that the memory matters more than the physical manifestation of it. I love my crooked little moon, and I wouldn’t change a single thing about it.