Thursday, March 2, 2017

The group with the circle tattoo

I have mixed feelings about explaining my stick and poke circle tattoo. I flutter between wanting to be asked about it because I love it, to balking at telling people the real and important story behind it. The story of my entire season in New Hampshire, and the story of losing my friend Reed. A simple question about my tattoo could become a huge conversation that the person who asked about my tattoo didn't necessarily want to enter. That story a hugely personal thing to share. But then here I am displaying this new symbol right in the open on my arm. As I go back and forth with my own feeling about sharing, I've come to the conclusion that I will never ask about someone's tattoo unless I know them quite well. 

The circle is a symbol of many things. For Reed, it meant pretty much nothing, just a funny idea of a tattoo to get. For the rest of us, it means community-- how we circled up everytime we met up to eat or to work. It means connection to each other and to Reed. It is an aerial view of a cake, or a rock bar. It means nothing and everything at the same time. For me it's also a highlight of fairly shitty birthday. I am usually really excited about my birthday, but last year it came four days after Reed died. I took it off facebook, I avoided it, and no one at Bear Brook even knew it was my birthday until the evening when they wondered why all these cakes my mom had bought had suddenly appeared. I came to realize over the day that I had made this connection between grieving and not celebrating my birthday, but really they were separate things and it was ok to be wished a happy birthday, because it meant more connection with my friends who I cared about but didn't have it in me to reach out to. Getting the tattoo after that realization turned my night around.

My tattoo is something I think about constantly. When I push my long sleeves up I touch it, when I have short sleeves I look at it. It never makes me sad, but it is a way that I remember what happened. Sometimes I am still in denial that Reed drowned, that those weeks of sadness weren't sprung from losing Reed in the river on the beautiful September evening. I look at my permanent tattoo and know that it is real. I think about the quick decision to get it, the excitement in the lodge of being the 5th one to get it that night. Of sitting and drinking a beer to ignore the stabbing needle and getting distracted by a fun conversation with Aimee. Of waking up and looking at it and loving it. Of how we all sliiightly peer pressured others to get it, how beautiful it was to see Calvin tattooing Steff and Drake and Maura on the field in North Conway during our big hitch meet up.

I love my circle. I know it's permanent, but I check for it because once I had a dream that it rubbed off. To sum it up: It's a reminder of loss and also of belonging, it's my favorite thing that I wish I didn't have. As much as I feel conflicted about explaining it, it's a way to open up conversation. My circle and Reed's death are things that will always be there but I will get more and more used to their presence/ realness. 
Also to insert a HP reference that maybe doesn't make sense but it still about circles: Because a circle has no beginning!

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