Friday, February 1, 2013

Indelible


I once read that childhood is a lot like being drunk: everyone can tell you about all the embarrassing things you did, but you yourself remember none of it. Which is why, much to my annoyance (but the amusement of my peers) I often have to listen - again - to my grandmother telling me the story about ‘how baby Helena rolled down a flight of stairs and was thought dead until someone smacked her ass’, or ‘how Helena refused to eat her dinner until she saw that then she’d miss dessert as well’ or ‘how Helena actually ate the sand pies her sister made in the sand box’ (even as a kid I was remarkably receptive to concepts like ‘willing suspension of disbelief’). Though these anecdotes are all undoubtedly very amusing, I’m always listening to them with a very stiff smile. Because while these occurrences are apparently memorable, I don’t remember them at all.  
    ‘Indelible’ can refer to a pen or ink, in which case it means that they make marks which cannot be removed. In a more abstract sense, it refers to something which cannot be forgotten. It derives from de Latin verb ‘delere’ (‘to delete’), which in combination with the negating prefix ‘in’ formed a word which I find much more elegant than what would have been a contraction of the original English words. Don’t you find ‘indelible’ much more beautiful than, oh say, ‘indeletable’? 
    Everyone has memories that are indelible. Sometimes this is a good thing, like for example when you see Paris for the first time, or get your first pet, or have your first kiss. Sometimes, indelibility is not such a nice thing. All of us probably have memories we’d really like to forget, but instead it sticks to us like a second skin. But while some indelible occurrences in your life might be cause to much pain, it’s important to remember that those moments, too, are important. I am reminded of one of my favorite movies, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, in which the main character wants nothing rather than to forget about a rather disastrous relationship. And in the universe of the film, it’s actually possible to do that medically: a company specialized in making people forget. In other words: it’s now possible for him to literally erase her from his thoughts. But as the procedure is taking place, he becomes aware of all the memories he has of her, memories which don’t seem so bad after all. At the end of the film, he even begs the people deleting parts of his mind not to let him forget. Because despite all the heartbreak, he doesn’t want to forget. A message to remember, methinks.
My first tattoo
    Recently I had an experience which will undoubtedly remain in my thoughts for a very long time. Because just like the indelible ink that was painted in my skin, the experience of getting my first tattoo was definitely an indelible one. I had been thinking about getting one for a long time, and last year I finally decided that I’d go for it. So I stepped into the best tattoo parlor in town and made an appointment. Since I love words, it would have to be a text of some kind, and because I wanted it to be small and discreet I wanted it behind my ear. I finally went for the word ‘imagine’, to be tattooed behind my right ear (because I’m right-handed, and imagination is handy when you’re writing), in a typeface called ‘the dreamer’. I thought it extremely fitting. 
    The day itself I was pretty nervous. I had asked a friend of mine to be there with me, partly because company is always nice when you’re nervous, and partly because I was a little scared that I’d chicken out at the last moment. But I didn’t and it turned out marvelously. And while technically the tattoo is in a place which I can’t actually see, and setting the tattoo wasn’t half as painful as I imagined it would be (I guess I have a higher pain threshold than I expected), when I got up the next morning I was beaming because I couldn’t believe that I had actually gone through with it. 
    Very often I feel like my life (not just my childhood) is a blur, and I can’t really remember much about anything. But some moments and experiences are so unique and special that they’ll probably stay with me for the rest of my life. Most of those indelible moments are the ones that surprised me. As such, me getting a tattoo (something which I had been contemplating for a very long time) may not be the ultimate indelible experience, even though the mark itself - by definition - is. I think for me it’s a kind of poetic memo. I had the word written not just on my skin, but in my skin, so I’d never forget that part of me which I cherish most. Which, contrary to what some people might think, has nothing to do with John Lennon. 

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