I love ink. There’s something about words on a blank page that pulls me in as a reader, sparks my curiosity, makes me want to learn the substance of a story.
I just so happen to feel equally enthralled by ink on paper and ink on flesh.
I dream of a literary sleeve – one that runs from my shoulder all the way to my wrist, on my right arm (my write arm), the arm that, god willing, will one day produce stories of my own. I dream of making explicit on the surface of my body the density of ink that flows through my veins. Maybe one day, when I sit down to write, the words in my mind will flow through the blood of that arm, filter through all the stories that tore me down and built me back up again, the stories that made me the being of words and flesh that I am today. My stories will gain strength as they go. And out of my fingertips will be born new words. A new story to be read.
My literary sleeve is one tattoo in the making. The single word, “Moira”, in the international phonetic alphabet, embraced by brackets on my wrist. A reference to The Thirteenth Tale, a book about book lovers, a book that held my soul between its pages from first read to fifth.
It’s a remarkable thing when you can find yourself in a book. Find yourself, when you didn’t even realize you’d been missing. And bring yourself back.
In a blessed accident, I stumbled upon a website called The Word Made Flesh (http://tattoolit.com/), and the website’s wonderful and highly recommended (by me) book, The Word Made Flesh: Literary Tattoos from Bookworms Worldwide. If there’s one thing I love more than tattoos, it’s literary tattoos, and if there’s one thing I love more than literary tattoos, it’s people explaining why the tattoos are significant to them. The Word Made Flesh, both in its website and printed forms, is a photo album containing people’s personal stories and explanations of why certain quotes resonated with them. The artwork is often beautiful; the stories always are.
So now I see “that I have been putting off the essential,” to quote Margaret Lea, the narrator of The Thirteenth Tale: “it rather looks as though in forcing myself to overcome my habitual reticence, I have written anything and everything in order to avoid writing the one thing that matters.”
Margaret Lea, as you will discover in the book’s second chapter, if you happen to read it, discovers that the reason she has felt so alone in the echoing emptiness of a grand world is that she had a twin, and now she does not. Margaret’s twin died minutes after birth. Mine died in a miscarriage. I feel her absence every day.
I have never written a story that was not, somehow, about my twin.
If you go on to read The Thirteenth Tale, you will discover Margaret’s adoration for the IPA, you will discover how she habitually writes her twin’s name in its illegible, upside down and sideways lettering, keeps the scraps of paper always near her, always around.
Ink on flesh – a scrap of paper I will never lose, a proximity I will never forfeit.
This tattoo is my way of keeping what I lost close to me, of displaying on the surface that which dwells deep in my heart. My story, on the blank page of my skin. It is merely the first of what I hope to be many dozens of tributes to books in which I lost myself, books in which I found myself.
You can read me like an open book, if only you know how.
Written by Indigo V.