Last week my housemate removed the last of my piercings with pliers. Here is my fresh, metal free face.
Afterwards, my face felt empty and hollow without the familiar pieces of metal. I ran my tongue over my teeth and felt confused by the missing click from the barbel hitting enamel. I washed my face and instinctively cleaned around where my medusa stud used to be.
I had lots of piercings during my quasi-goth early teenage years. Fifteen in my ears, tongue, medusa, nose. Some done by professionals, most by myself or friends. I still remember getting my first piercing. It was during a lunch break at school, performed with a drawing pin and alcohol hand gel. Let’s not discuss how bad the ensuing infection was.
Over the last year or so, I have been removing them one by one. Decluttering my face, in essence. Just a couple remained last night. These were the ones which had been untouched for so long that I couldn’t unscrew them myself. Hence why pliers were needed.
By their nature, piercings are sort of uncomfortable. Our faces are the means through which we absorb the world and communicate. They are also fragile - thin skin and cartilage, delicate bones. So, little additions to them for decorative purposes feel wrong when you get them done. You're forced to renegotiate the most basic acts- speaking, eating, sleeping. You no doubt bite the barbell or catch the stud on a towel. The skin tries to repel it by swelling and pushing.
If you endure the healing process, then a sudden calm is the reward. Everything settles and the piercing integrates into your skin. Washing around it, or chewing in a particular way becomes the norm. You stop noticing it in the mirror and people stop commenting. It becomes invisible.
That’s what university has been like so far.
The day I arrived in my new flat was horrendous. I was the first to get there. I sat in my airless room starting at my stuff; a bag of clothes, a bag of kitchen stuff, a box of plants and my desk lamp. I couldn’t find a supermarket, so I sat alone and ate a tin of tomatoes. Unpacking was slow, shaky. My initial interactions with each of my housemates were excruciating. By some luck, they are not (all) psychos.
Home is a nebulous concept for me. It isn’t a singular place, it’s a network of different locations. I felt just as at home in the Paris flat I stayed in for a week as I have after years in other places.
It wasn’t an issue of homesickness. Home for me is where Chapman is. It's where I can make my coffee in the mornings and not worry about the grounds making a mess. Where I can watch Casey Neistat vlogs whilst writing in my pyjamas. It's a place I am glad to return to on cold nights. This dorm room where I sit now, typing at 3am, became my home quickly. I’ve done my best to personalize it with plants and art postcards washi taped to the walls. Accomodation is allocated at random, so even though I pay the same as everyone else, I am in a building with black mold and rats. Fun.
Moving out wasn’t the hard part - I lived away from home for a year before so that wasn’t a big deal. Change is something I like, even something I thrive on. Living with strangers also wasn’t the issue - I’ve done that before too and handled some fairly dubious situations/people.
Rather, it’s that sensation of having a strange, amorphous ~thing~ take over my life. University.
I felt myself trying to repel everything- just like skin tries to repel a new piercing. For a few weeks, I thought of nothing but dropping out. I made calculations and realized how much each lecture costs me. I envisioned what I could do if I spent my tuition costs on travel or investments. Each night, I gazed at my pictures from Paris and dreamed of moving there. I imagined spending my days writing in cafes, a cup of espresso in one hand and a cigarette in the other, red lipstick staining the edges of both.
I am going to stick it out. Probably. Things are getting easier in increments.
Oh and the piercings? I no longer feel uncomfortable without them. My face has found a new baseline. Maybe my life will do the same, some time soon.
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