Your Hands (Together)

by thanklemons

It’s on impulse one afternoon that I decide what my tattoo will be. It’s a decision I’ve toyed with for years, since the moment I turned 18, but I never settled on anything. How do you choose something you’ll be happy with for the rest of your life? What if you end up imprinting something on yourself that you realize, years later, you want to let go? How do you know what to hold on to, what to keep and what to throw away?

Perhaps it goes without saying, but I am a pack rat. I hoard; I cannot let things go. Rehashing moments is simultaneously cathartic and troubling, a means of confirming my existence and of forgetting to live in the here and now. More than anything, it comforts me to have tangible markers of abstract experiences – makes me feel like a whole person, like a body existing in physical form, rather than an incorporeal collection of thoughts. So, I keep things. They are the scraps that make me feel whole. And every so often, I wander back and sift through the pieces, pulling out the boxes with bits of paper and souvenirs that would look like trash to anyone else. Concert tickets, birthday cards, handwritten notes, bottle caps, treasures of fortune cookies past. Tiny things, but I love them – and I expect no one else to understand.

In a way, everyone does this. Memory is an act of hoarding, after all, picking up the pieces of your past and holding them up to the light, gently teasing them apart (often over and over again) until they make sense. Sometimes, they never do.

But one afternoon in my 20s, I am sifting through the scraps of memory, and I find a yellow card envelope I have tucked away for the last ten years. I have saved this quote – carried it with me, literally and figuratively, through nine different apartments and dorm rooms (five moves in the rain, four in blistering heat). It is small but it gave me hope when I was young, and it gives me something to think about now. So, even though my mother does not like tattoos, I decide on this sunny day that her handwriting is something I can be sure of forever, that I will never regret it on my body. Maybe it’s a redundant choice, since my mother is already all over me, etched into my features and my movements and my voice. But it is mine to make.