Outward Sign

chinese for together


I have flirted with tattoos. I have imagined the dark lines binding pieces
of my fantasy self onto the awkward bulges of my real flesh. I have
envisioned becoming more myself by submitting to the sharp tongue of a silver
needle but I have a father who wears an impossibly perfect woman’s torso
as a veil over the name of the girl whom he thought he’d love forever. He
tells me variously that her name was Martina or Maria. He changes his
story to fit his mood but he never changes the part where he wishes he
hadn’t turned his skin into an outward sign of his inmost heart. Because
of him, I never could allow myself to be bound to one season of self
fantasy. I paint myself only with transient touches of powder and gloss
and my skin like a mirror reflects only my current identity.

Several months ago, I saw a tattoo. I liked the simple Chinese brush strokes
and asked the girl, “What does it mean?”

She brushed just the fingertips of her left hand against the smooth pale olive
of her pulse and smiled–not at me–but to some warm place inside herself.
“Together. It means together and my sister and I got it together–here where
our hearts are next to our hands.”I don’t know whether I will want a sister or a tattoo tomorrow but
tonight I envy her.



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