Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Woman Who Carries Her Dead

Yesterday I stood in a long line at the Walmart pharmacy patiently waiting my turn. In front of me stood a woman, her back to me, wearing tight jeans and a tank top. I could not see her face, but I estimated her to be in her late 40s.

Standing as close as I was, I saw that on her right shoulder blade she had a small tattoo. Never having seen a real tattoo up close, as I discreetly studied it I saw that time had made the dye bleed out beyond the original lines. The green vine and small red heart was identifiable, yet the word or name associated with the tattoo was an unreadable blur.

As she slightly turned, the tattoos that covered her upper arms became more visible and evidently were more recent. The colors remained clear with the lines boldly clear. Each tattoo had one or more names associated with it.

It was when she turned further, I could see at an angle that on both of her inner arms she had tattooed a lengthy list of names and dates of birth and death.

She carries her dead with her.

When she picked up her medicine from the pharmacist and turned, I was even more surprised to discover my estimate of her age was way off. Moving in obvious agony, she was clearly in her 70s with a face lined with suffering that transcended the physical. 

She carries her dead with her.

And my heart broke for the woman. What compelled her to bear the memories of her dead with her? Why so many? 

When she passes, who will carry her name and the dates of her birth and death, this woman who converted her own body into a into mausoleum of memories?

She carries her dead with her.

I have written many stories with remarkable characters, but they seldom touch the poignancy of the real people that walk among us every day so easily ignored and so quickly forgotten.

Many of the characters that populate my tales have been erased from my recollection, but I do believe I will always remember the woman who carries her dead with her in perpetual memory for, even if her mind falls into senescence, until she goes into her grave, the memorials on her skin will still give her a voice that speaks and remembers.

1 comment:

  1. What a great image, both eerie and touching the heart.