I have joked that I should get “Widow” tattooed across my forehead because it would make some conversations easier. Like the time at work that my employee had to ask me who Jason was, or that other time at work that the designer on the show did a double take when I said he was dead, or that other time at work when someone asked why he never came to happy hour. Though that tattoo might solve some problems for me, it would also probably increase my awkwardness factor a lot. So I guess I won’t do that.
Instead I got a dragon tattooed on my leg. The dragon is blue with pale green eyes. Its wings are made of the molecular structure of oxytocin. It is in full flight over the islands of Vanuatu.
Tattoos in Vanuatu were an interesting blend of sacred and casual. Once, they had been sacred rites of passage. High ranking women would spend days being tattooed on a white mat when they reached menses. There is a tattoo that shows that you’ve climbed Manaro. There were different tattoos based on island, cultural area, and rank. When I was there, tattoos were much more casual. I had friends on the island with facial tattoos because they felt like it. It was easy enough to use orange thorns and ash to create a simple line tattoo.
When Jason and I got home from the Peace Corps, we talked about getting tattoos to mark our service. It was one of those experiences that changed each of us and we wanted to memorialize that. Between finances and finding an artist and our busy lives, it didn’t happen. We were going to get sand drawings, though we couldn’t agree on who got which one. (The debate was between the ant, “stronger in a team” and Chief Tetbow, “Walk the talk.”) Before that, I always thought I’d get a dragon and/or the words, “We be the stuff that dreams are made on.” But that never happened either.
There is something about changing my physical appearance to reflect Jason’s death that has been satisfying. Not that my body was “wrong” before, but now there is an external representation of the internal shift. My body reflects that specific experience in a way that others can see. I’ve written before about how I look forward to aging. (Not that I seem to age, but in theory…) I consider the smile lines around my eyes the badge of a life full of laughter. The grays coming in at my temples are symbols of the worry I care for people I love. And now, there is a dragon wrapping its wings of love around my shin.