I’m writing this in response to this week’s Red Writing Hood prompt; I’ve never done anything like this before and I don’t know if I’ve quite got the hang of it yet so bear with me!
I watch my friend react in horror: who are these people with their spiky hair and pins through their ears and noses and goodness knows where else and tattoos everywhere? She’s never seen people like this and all she can see is a very strange and obviously painful fashion. Can it be called fashion? It’s easy to laugh, although I’m baffled that she’s never met anybody ever dressed like this before, ever, in her fifty years. This is how modern life is in the cities.
Tattoos are for sailors. That’s how it used to be. Those strange, uncouth, unsavoury men who prowled or stumbled about portside cities and who were shunned by decent folk. Blue ink stain reminders of far off places, and sweethearts. Mottoes of faith, of courage, of loyalty. Marks that set this band of men apart and told of stories and lives that others didn’t want to know, or ask, about.
Now tattoos have become high fashion, something desirable and sought after. It’s a must have accessory (although its permanency is sometimes later regretted). Bright colours, popular motifs, declarations of love and loyalty. Worn openly, even brazenly. By women, even stuck on by children. The world has changed.
I see tattoos. I see badges of shame, yet mingled with a curious pride, honour. Some hide it, unable to articulate the hideous realities through which they passed. Others hold their arms out, a testimony. They are the marks of a unique group, the survivors of one of mankind’s worst chapters in history. Those numbers tell so much in so few digits. These are the tattoos that are seared in my memory.