Thursday, July 15, 2010

Getting Inked

I’ve got a relatively fresh scar crying out for transformation.

When I’m standing, it knifes in a gently curved vertical line along my right thigh. If you extrapolate the lines, it forms an ellipse with the curve of my buttock, when I flex my glutes in wistful longing for the bubble butt I never had, even at an age when wanting one would have been a reasonable gay career goal.

Any man who desires me must desire this scar as part of who I am. If he doesn’t, it’s a good indicator there’d be nothing there between us if we tried.

I love this scar. It’s my history made visible, and a daily reminder that my embodied soul, no static entity, is in continuous process. That my arthritic hip tried so hard for years. That I remember it with love and gratitude for all the good work it did. That finally, last October, it was time to let it go. I’m packing titanium and space age polymer now: sometimes I set off airport alarms; sometimes not. Go figure. It’s a little death (though alas without the orgasm).

Now, instead of that beloved hip, I have the scar. It’s wonderful not to live with chronic pain. It’s wonderful and easy to let the memory of pain slip away, as though it no longer had to do with me. Cure verges too quickly toward complacency: the Day of Atonement's gates already closing on the time when this pain was our pain, my share of all flesh. The pain meant I couldn’t forget. I’m incredibly lucky to live in a time and place when you can trade pain for a scar, but now the scar’s job is to bring me back to mindfulness.

Manjushri is the wrathful form of Avalokiteshvara, Tibetan Buddhism’s boddhisattva of compassion. His diamond wisdom cuts through illusion. He’ll take his place on my flank. I’m still not sure when. First I have to settle on a tattoo artist whose design sense I trust. I need to confirm what precautions should be taken to guard against infection, an issue for two years after a joint replacement.

To do this right, I would have given my hip sky burial, leaving it ground up on a mountaintop for the benefit of the turkey buzzards. But I suspect that would have freaked out my buttoned-up Canadian surgeon way past the tipping point.

October 6 is my scar’s anniversary.


  1. David,
    Thanks for embracing your scar as a sign of pain and change without being willing to forget the pain. We often try hard to make believe that we (especially men) can "work through the pain" or that we can ignore it. Pain is a central aspect of life that can be transforming if we work to deal with it. Afterall, resurrection comes out of pain.

  2. I have 3 scars. One is from an appendectomy when I was 11. My appendix ruptured and I nearly died. The other is on the underside of my right arm from a window accident when I was 13. The glass severed the nerve in my wrist and I was told I'd never play the piano again. Through sheer will and determination I proved the neurosurgeon wrong. I am now a professional pianist. The third from a hernia operation. Each time I look at them I am reminded of how close to a major life and death situation I came. They are holy souvenirs of my will to overcome.