One of my favorite hobbies is people watching. I love to see how people gesture with their hands, the stride of their walks, arms swinging out, flicks of hair. There are so many messages being conveyed at once it's hard to ignore (either that or I'm creepy). Many times I use these people in my work when I write. I take interesting nervous ticks and shuffles, word choice and diction, and make them my character's.
For example, today while walking around campus I saw a guy with slunched shoulders, as if the backpack he was carrying itched. Without seeing his face I knew he was uncomfortable. It was as obvious as a girl who's had on cheap stilettos four hours past their comfort time.
There was something interesting in the guy with the itchy backpack, and it wasn't until he turned that I realized why he was uncomfortable. Almost ever inch of his body was covered in tattoos. There was no order or reason to them, they weren't delicate pieces of labored artwork, they were the kind a friend does in his garage when he's just trying to learn how hard to apply the needle to virgin skin. "915" was etched under his eye and other small little words etched near his forehead, temple, and jaw line. He held his face up because he had to, but the weight of the guy he had been, who'd gotten the tattoos, lay heavy on his shoulders. I turned away quickly because I didn't want to stare. I'm sure he was used to the stares, but the look in his eyes made me regretful for him; sorry.
I have two small tattoos in very visible spots, a small " on my ring finger and a small ouroboros behind my left ear. I speak with my hands and sometimes while I'm teaching I see my students eyes flutter and stare at my left hand as I talk. I've learned to overlook it but still I notice. I don't notice my snake, mostly because I can't see it, but I still run my finger along its imagined raised edges. Sometimes someone will ask, "What is that?" and I reply, "An ouroboros." They look at me confused and I have to explain a snake eating its own tail and then they nod "Oh", unclear of its meaning. I don't regret my tattoos. I love them. They're a part of me and each has its own significance, but I imagine the guy with 915's and tear drops signify something different.
I couldn't help but think, "What if all our mistakes were as visible as his?" Each one etched into our skin, sloppily, with uneven lines, words and images that no longer reflect who we are, on the spaces of our skin the whole world can see? For the world to judge? Would we be able to hold our heads high?