I'm getting a new tattoo. In my family, tattoos don't mean rebellion. My own mother gives them to me. They aren't fashion forward. You don't get them to be cool, or to be different. In my family, you get them to signify something. You get them when there's something happening in your life, or something you've discovered about yourself. They're a little reminder, a little tribute, to that certain something you don't want to forget.
My newest dedication is a little black handprint. Nothing fancy, nothing outrageous. It's going on my chest, where only I will ever see it. When I decided on it, it meant something to me. But that meaning has changed over time. What was going to be a reminder of my first love has turned into a tribute to the people who mean the most to me.
It well may be
That we will never meet again
In this lifetime
So let me say before we part
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you
You'll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart...
I sat there listening to our song, and thinking about her. Without really thinking about it, I picked up a marker and drew a little design on my chest. A handprint. And it made me feel better, because I could look at that mark and think about the way things used to be. True, our romance is over. But she's still left a profound impact on my life. She's taught me a lot about myself, and I'll always be in her debt for it. I've forgiven her for breaking my heart, even though it still hurts. But the memories will always be there.
I asked my best friend for the handprint. I could have just as easily gotten one from the girl who inspired it, but it didn't seem right for some reason. So we brought out the giant ink pad, and later some paint. Once we got a print we were satisfied with, we set it aside to dry and went back to being our goofy selves. We went to the mall, and my friend was was working there. We never talk outside of that store, but he has this way of making me feel amazing whenever I walk through that door. I look forward to getting a hug for him more than actually shopping there. We had some serious fun that night, and it makes me smile to remember it.
Time went by. It was still hard to face the fact that the girl I loved didn't want the same thing, but I was dealing with it in my own quiet way. One of the things that really helped was watching my friend and her boyfriend. I felt betrayed, like everything I'd ever come to belive was wrong. I told myself that love wasn't real. But there they were. A living, breathing, impossible to ignore example of it. And in being happy for them, I guess I forgot to be sad for myself. So when he had to go away to college, I understood how much she was hurting.
We went to all of our favorite places. The coffeehouse. The used CD store. The mall. And of all the people, and all the days, who do I see there but my own source of joy and pain. It had been months since I'd seen her face or even heard her voice. We smiled and kept the conversation light. I even talked pleasantly to her mother, who looked at me like something dangerous that needed to be exterminated. They left, and I fell apart.
But my dear friend knew just the right things to say. She knew the things not to say, too. She didn't try to change the subject. She didn't try to make it less or more than it was. She was just there. She watched me hurt, just like I'd watched her hurt all day. And I think just knowing we weren't in it alone made us both feel a little better. I know it helped me. On the drive home we listened to her new used CD. This soft, sad song about love came on. And neither of us said anything. We both just sat there quietly as the tears rolled down our cheeks. When it ended we looked at each other. And we laughed. And I knew we'd be ok after all, even if neither of us believed it at the moment.
What does any of this have to do with my tattoo? Well, I looked at it again after all of this. And it wasn't just a battle scar of love anymore. It was my best friend's hand, trying to hold the pieces of my broken heart together when she should be mending her own. It was the touch of a boy who always makes me feel special, even when I'm sure that I'm not. And when I finally get it, it will be the creation of a mother who lets me be who I am without question. None of these people know that they're involved in the symbolism, and I don't know if I'll ever tell them. But they'll always be there for me to remember. Like a handprint on my heart...